Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS ) CEO John Riccitiello and I are in complete agreement -- video games are way too hard these days.
In comments made to The Wall Street Journal, Riccitiello said he believes video games these days are far too complex and that they are, in fact, boring at times. He's right, he's right, he's right. And the future growth of the video game industry may depend on dealing with this issue.
There are a lot of casual gamers out there -- people who don't necessarily want to spend 80 hours solving a dense storyline title such as Take-Two Interactive's (NYSE: TTWO ) Grand Theft Auto or get bogged down for days in a single military mission in Activision's (Nasdaq: ATVI ) Call of Duty. These people with lives outside the video game completely go against the grain of current video-game design theory: For the most part, designers seem to think that everyone wants to be challenged at every moment in the game experience.
They don't. Well, let me clarify that. In my opinion, there's a significantly underserved audience out there that would buy Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty if they were assured that they didn't need the skill of a hardcore gamer. This is what it basically boils down to -- serving the needs of the hardcore gamer versus the desires of the casual gamer. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and Sony (NYSE: SNE ) are having a difficult time competing with Nintendo (OTC: NTDOY.PK), in part because of the Wii's intuitive control system, which appeals to casual gamers. Bu Nintendo is still as guilty as everyone else in terms of making overly taxing titles -- play any Zelda or Mario adventure game and you'll see what I mean.
Any game can be made "casual" with just a little tinkering. I have a theory that publishers could increase sales if they put two versions of a title on every disc -- one that would appeal to ardent gamers, and one that could played by those who want to enjoy the plot and scenery, but don't necessarily want to become stuck trying to defeat the three-headed tarantula at the end of a cave. Plus, if simplified versions of games are available, I believe they would appeal to many more young folks. Believe it or not, that SpongeBob SquarePants game from THQ (Nasdaq: THQI ) called Creature From the Krusty Krab is extremely difficult at the later stages. It's enough to make any kid swear off video games forever.
Reigning in the difficulty quotient on video games might indeed help the industry grow. Believe me, I love to get lost in a huge adventure, but I just don't have the time these days. It might sound counterintuitive, but if I could complete a game every few days or so, I probably would buy more software. I'm inclined to believe there are a lot of people out there just like me, so I hope publishers strongly consider a change in design theory.
These articles are neither boring nor too complicated:
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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Activision. He still can't get past Plankton and his laser eye in that SpongeBob game for the GameBoy Advance. As of this writing, he was ranked 15,776 out of more than 59,000 investors in the CAPS system. Want to see how well you could do? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.