e3 2006 taught us that game developers seem to be relearning the fact that there is a huge untapped market for simple and intuitive games on home consoles. Nintendo, especially, is leading the charge.
But even Nintendo is late with its observation. For years, any casual obsever could have recognized the massive popularity of things like online flash arcade game sites. Millions of people (gamers and non-gamers alike) access these games during the day for a quick game with simple goals and simple game mechanics.
So as Nintendo marches to the tune of its own beat and seeks to expand the gaming market by building simple games which appeal to non-gamers, what are they looking for? What makes a game simple and intuitive?
Simulate Real World Actions
One strategy that Nintendo is taking is to get people to control the games by movement. Everyone moves every day. We’re all familiar with basic arm and body movements. Nintendo is looking to capitalize on this familiarity. Instead of having to learn new button combinations that have little intuitive relation to the on screen movement, they are trying to take the learning curve away by using semi-universal body movements. By correlating these body movements in an intuitive fashion to the movement on the screen, Nintendo may actually be successful here. The key will be in choosing the correlations: matching the real world movements intuitively to the on screen action.
Simple Goal, Simple Mechanics
One of the most popular games of all time was Duck Hunt for the original Nintendo. Hey, even the girliest girls would play Duck Hunt. The mechanics were simple: just aim and shoot. The goal was clear, shoot as many ducks as you can with as few bullets as you can in as short a time as you can. Anyone could pick up the Light Gun and play immediately. No complex rules, no complex learning curve. Nintendo has made a wise decision in bringing back Duck Hunt for the Wii.
As mentioned before, the massive popularity of simple online arcade games is a testament to the gaming population who likes simplicity. Not every game should be loaded with variety. Many people like the feeling of mastering game mechanics and being able to play a game almost “mindlessly” – it can be cathartic. Nintendo and Microsoft seem to get this as they are respectively introducing the Virtual Console and Live Arcade which will both feature some of the old school games that everyone has fallen in love with all over again.
So with that said, what do you think makes a game simple and intuitive? What should the game developers aim for when they want to make a game that even non-gamers can pick up and play right away?