Last update: May 2021

3 mins to read - 2020/07/24

What Are Mid-Core Games?

As we continue our series introducing different styles of mobile games, mid-core is the next level of intensity/commitment. Halfway between casual games and hardcore games, they tend to be heavier in terms of strategy and complexity than your casual round of Angry Birds. Examples include games like Clash of Clans, Brawl Stars, and Guns of Boom. They are games that appeal to adults who enjoyed playing games as children and teens. Now that their target market are in their 2os through 40s, they have limited time to dedicate to gaming. Deconstructor of Fun describes mid-core games as:

“a lighter, more accessible take on a hardcore theme or genre.”

But what does this encompass?

what are mid-core games
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How Does Mid-Core Compare to Hardcore?

To define what mid-core games are, we first must take a look at the hardcore genre. Hardcore games tend to be very intensive in terms of strategic and time-consuming gameplay. Think the Doom franchise, or Dark Souls. Art, design, storytelling, and mechanics are all quite complex, so they are generally played on PCs or gaming consoles. The player base of hardcore games tends to be 90% male, and games are usually targeted at a niche market.

Mid-core, then, takes the basic theme, style, narrative arcs, etc. of hardcore games, but makes them more accessible. Storylines may be easier to follow and gaming mechanics simpler to control. They often involve metagames, or games-within-games, such as side quests or bonus levels that are incidental to main gameplay. Whereas hardcore games are designed primarily for highly committed gamers who have large amounts of time to dedicate to mastering the game, mid-core games are much more egalitarian in their appeal. But they are still more immersive, and require more hours of gametime, than casual games – which are designed to be able to pick up and put down sporadically.

This encompasses a wide range of gaming genres, so Deconstructor of Fun has further segmented the category of “mid-core games” into 9 sub-sections:

  • 4X Games (March Battlers)
  • RPGs
  • Synchronous Strategy Games
  • MOBAs, Shooters and Brawlers
  • Hunting Games
  • Battle Royale
  • Games with User Generated Content
  • Augmented Reality Games
  • Sports Games

How Are They Monetized?

There tends to be a very fine line dividing casual games and mid-core. As such, both of them employ similar monetization strategies. Since mid-core games tend to have more high-quality graphics and design and more immersive worlds, they often require an upfront fee. Many also come bundled into a subscription for gaming consoles, so they would be less dependent on ads and in-game purchases than casual or hyper-casual games would be.

However, Fortnite came around and famously revolutionized the monetization model for free-to-play (F2P) games. Since then, in-app purchases and loot boxes have been key drivers for revenue, making free-to-play a viable business model for a wide variety of games. Subscriptions and battle passes are also an effective means of converting free players into paying customers.

Given the narrative nature of mid-core games, and the likelihood that many players come from hardcore gaming backgrounds, in-app ads tend to be a less effective monetization tactics. They disrupt gameplay and distract from the experience, which “hardcore” gamers don’t appreciate. But shooters and mobile online arena games (MOBAs), meanwhile, excel at monetizing players’ eagerness to skip over timed lock-downs of the game. And push notifications can be an integral means of targeting players who are willing to pay towards a more premium gaming experience.

Learn more about how to use push notifications to monetize your mobile app by reading our blog post: Top 30 Best Practices for Push Notifications in 2020

mid-core game Legend of Solegard
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What Is the Future of Mid-Core Games?

As the mobile games industry opens up to a wider cohort of prospective players, gaming as a whole looks to become more inclusive. And with the technical capabilities of mobile devices increasing with every upgrade, every genre of game is seeing an enormous surge in creative potential. This means greater imaginative scope in terms of story, design, graphics, and mechanics. In short, it’s a very exciting time for mobile games.

As more complex games become more accessible, and more amenable to playing in shorter bursts, it’s likely the line between mid-core and hardcore will become blurred. Interestingly, there also may be a move by some casual games developers to target the mid-core market.

King Digital, the games developer behind the casual mobile games Candy Crush and Pet Rescue Saga, has already ventured into the mid-core space with their F2P game Legend of Solegard. This mobile game, released in 2018, is a fantasy RPG, and exhibits aspects of a turn-based strategy games. It features colorful cartoon warriors in a world reminiscent of Norse mythology, filled with bosses to fight and dungeons to beat. Clearly, it’s a game designed to appeal to everyone. In an interview with ShackNews, King Digital VP Arnaud Loiseau states that:

“We’ve seen the midcore space gain a huge amount of traction over the last few years, and we’re looking to expand our portfolio of games into this popular mobile gaming genre.”

Interestingly, King Digital chose to release Solegard solely on mobile devices, to be monetized by optional in-app purchases. It would seem they can see the writing on the wall in terms of the rise of mobile as favored gaming device.

To read more about how to use OpenBack to boost player retention and maximize revenues, download our Case Study: Dreamworks How To Train Your Dragon App, School of Dragons

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