Casual Has To Go
It's always been a stupid term for the games it describes, as it is entirely misleading. Several studies indicate that so-called casual gamers play as often or more often on average than "hardcore" gamers. Looking at the average site visit duration on pogo.com shows an average duration of about an hour. That's not a quick, five-minute "casual" play session.
I've complained about this term before. But now I come with an alternative. What the word "casual" really describes is "easy to pick up and play without prior experience." Perhaps the term "accessible gaming" is a more appropriate one that better represents the differentiating factors. This may seem like much ado over nothing, but I've personally found myself backtracking to explain that "casual is a misnomer" numerous times when discussing the casual game market. I can only imagine the difficulty posed to the ad sales teams for casual game sites in demonstrating that there is an addictive amount of time spent in a medium termed "casual."
A shift to the term "accessible gaming" becomes ever more important with the upcoming E3 event, where rumors already abound regarding casual peripherals for core gaming systems. The two worlds are converging, as has already been evidenced with the success of the "accessible game" "Guitar Hero." A game not usually referred to as casual, "Guitar Hero" quickly became the de facto party game due to its accessible nature, which attracted non-gamers to play. Despite the "casual" gameplay, SOE's new free-to-play MMO Free Realms (with decidedly non-casual high production values) had me sitting for four hours playing on my first experience with the title. And I'm not even the game's target demographic.
Two years ago I was aggravated with the term "hardcore" until IGA Worldwide's Justin Townsend mentioned the term "core" on one of my panels, which I quickly appropriated. Much more descriptive, and much less pornographic sounding, it fit perfectly to describe games catering to the longstanding gamer market. At E3, I'll be tossing around the term "accessible gaming" with reckless abandon, and hope others steal it as I stole Justin's term. We need to move beyond casual in order to truly recognize the massive behavioral shift surrounding accessible games.