Forget Hardcore and Casual, Nintendo Switch is for the Lapsed Gamer - ArticleEvan Norris , posted on 24 January 2017 / 18,017 Views
It's popular on gaming forums and in the less discerning corners of the video game media machine to strike a divide between the "hardcore" and the "casual" gamer. This is not a fuzzy, flexible divide, not one that allows parties from one side to bleed over into the other. This is an iron curtain, a Berlin Wall made of concrete and rebar, a demilitarized zone in which interlopers are shot on sight. "Hardcore" gamers sit on one side of the divide, and "casuals" sit on the other, and never the twain shall meet.
This false dichotomy has been active in the video game community for years, dating back to the days when Genesis did what Nintendon't. Sega positioned itself as a cooler and more adult version of Nintendo, and thus set in a motion a binary way of thinking that continues to define debates over what the competition does and Nintendo doesn't. With the advent of the internet, this counter-productive and often toxic black-and-white thinking became even more dangerous. Now, with Switch soon to hit the market, it's never been less helpful.
Switch isn't aimed at the hardcore gamer, often characterized as a basement dweller whose only non-gaming priority is a steady supply of Mountain Dew. Neither is Switch aimed at the casual gamer, seen as a nursing home resident or soccer mom with a severely impaired frontal lobe. Switch, like every other video game system on the planet, is aimed at both groups, which are far more amorphous and unpredictable than forum-goers and incendiary columnists might suggest. Importantly, it's also aimed at what could be described as lapsed gamers.
Who, exactly, are lapsed gamers? These are consumers who feel left behind or otherwise unfulfilled by the current gaming options on the market. Those inside the gaming bubble boast about the tens of millions of customers who bought a 3DS, PS4, XOne, WiiU, or PSV, but forget that many millions more own none of the above. By targeting those unhappy with the status quo, Nintendo might actually bring new blood into the industry — as opposed to Sony and Microsoft, whose PS4 Pro and Scorpio are simply exsanguinating current customers.
Nintendo, of course, has tried this before. Wii and DS, in addition to being disruptive forces in the industry, were meant to appeal to those turned off by the complexity of modern gaming. Titles like New Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Country Returns, and Super Mario All-Stars spoke directly to folks who grew up with and continued to long for the accessibility and replayability of games from the 8-bit and 16-bit generations. Where the 3DS, with its top-down Zelda and old-school RPGs continued that trend, WiiU went the other way entirely, and failed.
Enter Switch, a system focused on Nintendo's strengths — local multiplayer, portability, accessibility — with a twist: an appeal to those who've sat the last generation or two out, or who haven't felt completely satisfied since the industry moved away from 2D sprites. Now, not everything on Switch will be torn from a worm hole opened in 1994. The system will support a 3D Zelda at launch, and then, later, an open-world Super Mario — a pipe dream (get it?) of Nintendo fans for years.
Things are far more telling on the third-party front. Japanese publishers will bring to Switch some of the more popular franchises of the 1990s, complete with retro stylized graphics: Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter, and Bomberman. Low-tech indie games like Shovel Knight, The Binding of Isaac, Cave Story, and Has-Been Heroes will also make an appearance. I am Setsuna, a spiritual successor to Chrono Trigger, will be available at launch, with many other old-school RPGs arriving later.
Clearly the Switch is a video game platform that is simultaneously looking forward and backward. Ambitious games like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey represent the future and retro titles like Ultra Street Fighter II and Super Bomberman R represent the past. Taken together these games won't convert many PlayStation or Xbox gamers, but they might recruit the forgotten, lapsed, or under-served gamers; those who want something both accessible and nostalgic, something simultaneously easy to learn and difficult to master.