Todd Howard: ‘People Underestimate How Many Core Gamers There Are’

Todd Howard: ‘People Underestimate How Many Core Gamers There Are’
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Despite the fact I’m trying to remove the word ‘core’ and ‘hardcore’ from my vocabulary, I still have a lot of respect for what dreamy Todd Howard is saying in this interview. Apparently he attributes the massive success of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to the fact “people underestimate how many core gamers there are”.

Speaking to Game Informer, Howard claimed he wasn’t precisely sure why Skyrim was so successful, but had a few ideas.

“The short answer is “I don’t know”,” he said. “I can give you my guess, which is people underestimate how many core gamers there are; people who want a lot of depth and will play a game for a long time. There are a lot of them. If you give them something unique and good, you don’t have to dumb it down.”

According to Howard, there was no attempt on the team’s part to make the game more accessible to a broad audience, just attempts to improve it.

“There are things we changed to make the game better, but not to appeal to a wider audience,” he said. “I think we always benefited in Elder Scrolls early on, the fact that it is first-person and kind of walks this action line sometimes. We’ve always benefited from that. Even our own lofty expectations for how the game would be received or sell, it’s way, way beyond that.

“I don’t have a way of explaining it.”

Howard claims he doesn’t put too much thought into chasing particular demographics. He’s happy to simply let his games breathe.

“I mostly just make our stuff and say, “Okay, this will find an audience,” and we’ve been very lucky when it comes to that,” he said.

Skyrim’s Todd Howard On What Makes A Success [Game Informer]


  • Some of those statements… i find them very hard to believe.

    A “good” manager doesnt simply make a game without some idea of a target audience.

  • He is totally right, it’s something that has been bothering me lately. That is, this huge push for accesability and opening up the market to casual gamers as if over night all the Hardcore traditional gamers who eat sleep and breath games just vanished or that they no longer want the games they’ve liked all this time. Those big block buster billion selling games are not being bought by the casuals. His belief that you just make the game that you want rather than trying to data mine focus groups or ‘target audiences’ they are making a game that they want to play, sure it has a target audience but they dont sit around worrying about if X player is going to find it interesting or not. They just worry about if it’s right for them. Thats the way all developers should approach their games, put there heart and soul into something rather trying to make a product that fits into a specific stereo type.

  • Is “core” a type of gamer now?
    I always thought it was – casual, normal, hardcore.
    Or honestly it usually comes down to casual vs hardcore.
    Is core just non harcore. Or is it more hardcore than hardcore. Or is core simply harcore without the hard? Or is it a mainstream hardcore and the backbone of the industry in the same way and apple core is the backbone of an apple?
    Now I’m confused and my head hurts.

    • I believe ‘core’ gamer was a term coined by an exec of some company I can’t recall. They were referring to ‘hardcore’ gamer. It may have been Nintendo because people were complaining about the lack of traditional hardcore games since it was flooded with a focus on casual waggle games. Since that statement it seems to have become a common term used to refer to the hardcore traditional gamer market.

        • More traditional than hardcore. Hardcore is a measure of effort, casual a measure of time, but a core gamer is just in it to game. Kind of like how you have people who write, and Writers.

          • Hardcore isn’t really effort either it’s just a larger time investment . Which is why they get agitated when there is only 4 hours of content because there is nothing to invest that time towards

    • It’s a term from the Blue Ocean Strategy; your ‘core’ audience are the people your company currently serves, and your ‘expanded’ audience are the people you have started newly appealing to with a new innovation. It’s not really the same thing as ‘hardcore’ because kids who play licensed games count as ‘core’ gamers.

  • If you have to distinguish between facebook/bejewelled casual gamers and those who want a deeper experience “core” is as good a term as any.
    I think people do underestimate how many people are looking for a deep gaming experience, multiplayer or singleplayer.

    Skyrim didn’t grab me like I thought it would and I find myself playing more Kingdoms of Amalur now.

    • Don’t hate on bejwelled 😀

      As for skyrim i think it comes down to the combat system being so boring.

      Playing amalur. With something like 40 hours in and only Dalentarth and the plains of etharall basically quest complete. And starting on Detyre(which i appear to have out leveled some of 🙁 )

      I can still switch between the spec tree’s and weapons to make the combat more interesting. The speed and damage of each weapon actually make a noticable difference.(hell in some fights a hammer is just too slow) and keeps the combat interesting.

      And i imagine that if i sat around and listened to everything people had to say instead of just the stuff that looked interesting i could have taken a lot longer through those zones.

      My only complaint at the moment is that i’m probably going to hit the level cap long long before i get to the finish. What detriment that has to the game i don’t know

    • I agree with Lone Wolf. If we take away the term “core” how are we supposed to distinguish the different types of gamers there are? It doesn’t seem right to lump everybody into the one category.

      oh and inb4sh!tstorm of debate over the meaning of the words.

      • not shitstorming but I thought it went like this;
        Casual: mostly facebook and phone games, console is mainly limited to Guitar Hero and dancing games.
        Core: Wide ranging, games mostly played on consoles.
        Hardcore: Enters into tournaments and whatnot/ a mindset of taking games way serious.

        • Id argue with your hardcore definition

          What you have outlined is nothing other than a professional gamer.

          You’ve essentially said that you can only be a hardcore gamer if you play the small segment of games that have a large enough competitive arena.

          • In hes defence the ‘taking games way serious’ can imply drastic amounts of time playing and views on how to game like theory-crafting, elitism etc., so he may be talking more broadly than just Pro Gamers.

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