First-Person Shooter Creator Bets on Casual Gamers


[qi:002] The mobile gaming market was supposed to be huge by now. Clearly that hasn’t happened. And although the jury is still out as to whether this sector will grow or fizzle, as games on cell phones face competition from all kinds of other media, some analysts are resolutely predicting a slowdown.

But John Carmack, the creator of such hardcore IPs like Doom and Quake — the man who practically founded the first-person shooter genre in games — has been talking up the new mobile division of his company, id Software. In this way Carmack is following in the footsteps of id co-founder John Romero, who started the mobile games maker Monkeystone Games in 2001. But back then, the mobile games market was in its infancy, and after three-and-a-half years, Romero quietly shut the studio down. Carmack, on the other hand, has been waiting for the market to stabilize, and he’s not only working on games for mobile phones but for other devices as well — among them Nintendo’s handheld DS and Nintendo’s Wii.

As popular as id’s games are, they have traditionally appealed to the most hardcore corner of the market — the guys (and they are almost always guys) who shell out for the latest graphics card and like to overclock their PCs. These are also the type of guys who scoff at Nintendo’s family-friendly devices, who would die before ever touching a casual game — especially one made for a mobile phone.

Anna Kang, wife of Carmack and head of id Mobile, notes that Nintendo DS gamers also tend to be younger than those who stick to PC or console titles, so there is some worry that the M-rated violence that is such a hallmark of both Quake and Doom may not find enough eligible players on new platforms. Carmack and Kang are going to have to go looking for customers outside of id Software’s base for this new venture.

Is it a sign that the hardcore market is drying up? Well, I wouldn’t go that far, at least note yet. It’s true that pure PC gaming has been a niche market for a while, and the console market is crowded with competition. The fact that Carmack is going to platforms usually defined as “casual” is just another indication of the trend towards catering to a different type of player who wants a different kind of play. But he may not be able to capture these gamers solely by relying on the power of id’s IPs. He’ll have to adapt them to new tastes. Doom for All, perhaps? How about Everybody Quake Now!

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