Reduction: how mobile can bridge the gap between casual and hardcore

A casual beginning

At the advent of mobile games, the development community focused on simple games to entertain casual players interested in a momentary diversion. Marketed and developed as a casual form of video games; the expectation of mobile games was that they would be entertaining but not immersive.


(Snake, on the Nokia 5110, featured simple graphics and addicting puzzle gameplay)

Casual became a dirty word

As the mobile market developed, so too did their user base.  In stark contrast to the hardcore demographic of 18-35 year old males, the mobile market focuses on women 30-50 as its core user base.  Fearing the possibility of  “casual” games and players influencing game developers into diluting the “hardcore” game experiences to broaden its marketability; the hardcore base began to decry the idea of casual games and gamers as not being “true” gamers. Famously coining the phrase “filthy casual” to disparage players from wanting a simpler game experience.


(Two friends prepare for a LAN party with their gamer PCs; one has brought his entire desktop setup to play while his “casual” friend walks in with his gamer laptop

Reduction not destruction

The key to successfully translating hardcore games to the mobile platform has been deceptively simple; reduction.  In culinary terms a reduction is a plate which delivers the core elements of the original dish, but presented as a minimalist form of its former self. Reducing a hardcore experience for a casual audience can be accomplished in much the same way.  By dissecting a hardcore game and only focusing on delivering the core mechanic’s game loop, mobile game developers have the opportunity to bridge the gap between casual and hardcore.


(A base holdout battle in Starcraft II)

A fantastic example of reduction can be seen in League of War: Mercenaries which I believe takes the spirit of RTS combat seen in Starcraft II and makes it available for a casual audience. If you’d like to read more about it, you can check out my feature about it here League of War: Mercenaries: squad building done right.


(A final base push in League of War: Mercenaries)

What do you think of translating a hardcore game to mobile experience? Can it be done, and have you seen it done well?  Do you believe there is room enough for both a casual and hardcore game market? Or do you believe that one will have to win at the other’s expense?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.



Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on Facebook, and Instagram.






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