“Casually” Looking At The “Core” Of The Game World


Ok, I admit that the title might be a bit tacky, but the words casual and mid-core have become synonymous with today’s gaming world and game apps. Depending on who is looking at it, everyone has their own definition of the verticals. Adding to that clutter, is my own outlook of these verticals, but more from the traits of a gamer rather than just definitions.

Generally, a user does not look at games being a “casual” game or “mid-core” game. But based on the patterns of users playing different games and their interests, game developers and other ecosystem players such as ad networks, tend to segment users as casual, mid-core or core gamers. So, what is the definition of these three segments?

Quoting one simplest and most intuitive definitions by PeopleFun, we can look at these users as

  • Casual entertains self with games when time presents itself.
  • Mid-core arranges their gaming around their daily schedule.
  • Hardcore arranges their schedules around their gaming.

As per the above definition, Candy Crush Saga by King.com would be a typical casual game and Clash of Clans by Supercell would be a mid-core game. Though simple and self-explanatory, this definition is probably too black and white while trying to describe the definitions from a user’s perspective.

If we look at user’s interests, similarity in the games that they play, the traits and trends they look out for in games, the clear demarcation between these three categories starts getting a little fuzzy. In reality, it probably looks somewhat like this:


The games sort of fall into a spectrum across the three buckets and gamers tend to move across the adjacent buckets to look for similar games. Just in the mid-core segment, games like Hay Day, Clash of Clans show strong traits of casual games such as the characters, game mechanics etc., whereas games like Infinity Blade tends to be closer to the core games bucket.

There are, however, more buckets than just the vanilla casual/mid-core/core game buckets. While we can go to any level of granularity here, as a high-level overview, we can consider the following buckets.


  • Typical Game Models:  Strategy, RPG (text-based or graphical), card battle, multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), massively multiplayer online (MMO)
  • Typical Themes:  dark fantasy, medieval, military, crime/mafia
    • although a game like CSR Racing by Natural Motion has a racing theme, the underlying mechanics are more like an RPG, and therefore it would be more appropriately classified as a Midcore game.
  • Typical IAP:  speed-ups, advanced gear (to strengthen your forces), premium mystery boxes (“gacha”), energy
  • There are some newer games, such as Champs by Quark (a turn-based, multiplayer squad strategy game), that are definitely a twist on existing games.
  • The demographic is largely male and the games offer an immersive experience with extensive game mechanics.  Also, these tend to have strong social features (PvP battles, guilds).


  • Typical Game Models:  resource management, animal breeding
  • Typical Themes:  farming, city building/living, dragon breeding, zoo animal or pet raising, fantasy castle building (but with a much more cartoonish look than Midcore medieval fantasy games), hotel running, house decorating
  • Typical IAP:  speed-ups, premium consumable and durable items, decorations, energy
  • Most of these games tend to utilize a 2D isometric engine, but some are flat 2D, such as the “Pet Hotel”-type games.
  • There are extensive game mechanics, and some games are fairly social, but not as much as the Midcore games.


  • Typical Game Models:  poker, slots, bingo, general multi-casino-game
  • Typical IAP:  additional in-game currency for betting
  • The demographics here vary by game; poker tends to attract more males, whereas bingo skews towards females, and slots is in-between (but still more female).  Also note that these include games of mixed skill/chance (Poker) as well as pure chance (Slots).
  • Casino games monetize very well (i.e., high ARPDAU).


  • Typical Game Models:  match-3 (including classic match-3, as well as ones like bubble shooters), endless runner, board games, puzzle, physics (like Angry Birds), trivia, “simple” arcade (like Fruit Ninja), carnival games (like Coin Dozer), maybe hidden object
    • key distinction is that some games are turn-based, asynchronous PvP games (e.g., Words With Friends, Scopely’s games, Ruzzle), which differentiates them from single player games.
  • Typical IAP:  extra lives/energy, continuation after “death”, boosters
  • These games have mainstream appeal and the potential for large install bases and DAU, but comparatively low ARPDAU.  The demographics are similar to Casual-Sim.

Console-like Action

  • Typical Game Models:  FPS (first-person shooter), hack-and-slash, some racing (but other racing games are more casual), sports
    • These are what you call “twitch” games that require fast response.  Note that some casual games (like endless runner and simple arcade) also require twitch, but I think the difference is the degree.
    • These games also have a more advanced look-and-feel than casual arcade games.
  • Typical Themes:  military, zombie, dark fantasy, sports
  • Typical IAP:  extra lives/energy, continuation after “death”, boosters/additional “gear”
  • The demographic here is more similar to Midcore than to Casual.  That and the twitch factor are what differentiates these from Casual arcade.

User Traits

I believe that most people looking for the definition of these games are doing so with a purpose. It could be to build another game, or acquire users of a particular kind of game etc. For any of these purposes, rather than to try defining the game vertical, it makes more sense to analyze the behavior patterns of gamers playing these games. It is important to look deep into the psyche of the gamers.

Traits Casual Gamers Mid-core Gamers
Game Attitude Are easy going gamers looking for fun Are authority figures who want to be leaders
Learning Curve Look for short learning curve Look for moderately complex learning curve
Duration of Game Play Want “snackable” games to be played during short windows such as commute, coffee breaks etc. Invest considerable amount of time in improving game skills and building expertise
Social Have large network of social friends and like inviting them to play the same games Network is very strong within the game play to build teams within existing user base
Rewards Like instant gratification and rewards like freebies Like larger and well deserved gratification and want upgrades more than freebies
Spending Appetite Relatively lower spend appetite Relatively higher spend appetite
Number of Games Play multiple games during the course of day Need to invest time and hence limit the number of parallel games in a day
Audience Usually female Usually male

While I wish I can end this blog with some amazing conclusions, I believe that the intent behind understanding the game verticals will help draw different conclusions and outlooks. So, am just going to end the blog by re-emphasizing that we need to look at the gamers and their behavioral patterns to really understand today’s games and what works.


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