In an interview with Develop, Rockstar’s Sam Houser has been discussing the success of the Grand Theft Auto series, revealing that the studio’s products aren’t focus tested like other games, and that they don’t develop with the mystical hardcore/casual divide in mind.
“We always tried to make games that anyone could pick up and play. They may, over time, reveal a lot of structural and mechanical complexity,” stated Houser. “But the first mission of more or less any Rockstar game is very easy and engaging for a reason – because new people playing the game have to be gently led into the world of 3D action games, or open world racing games or whatever. This is the way we try to cater for a mass-market.”
The Rockstar co-founder admitted that the hardcore/casual divide “doesn’t make sense,” to his company, stating that: “Good games will usually sell and be popular, bad games will struggle – of any type or genre or style.” He added that it will be the big, high impact games that lead the industry as it evolves into a mainstream medium, and also criticized those companies that focus test and pander to a specific demographic, calling such activities “an anathema to creativity.”
Houser says a lot of things that make sense (GTA has always been popular with people who game “casually”), but sadly his suggestion that good games tend to do well while bad games suffer isn’t as true as it should be. We’ve seen plenty of excellent titles die in terms of sales while utter trash invariably tops the charts. The mainstream market has no eye for quality, which is why poor movie licenses sell and Big Brother is a highly rated TV show. Watered down, bland, shallow crap is what mostly shifts, because that’s what people like.