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Why Gamers Don't Stop Playing Shooter Games?

Shooting games have been in this industry for so many years, yet players don't really stop playing these games, old or new. So why do shooting games never lose their appeal?

Yongcheng Liu, Blogger

March 31, 2022

10 Min Read

In China, the monthly active players of shooter games in 2020 have exceeded 250 million, which made it one of the most popular game genres in the domestic market, and it steadily ranked one of the tops of all kinds of mobile games for monthly active user scale, with the number of MAU increasing by up to 24.8% compared to a year before.

As for racing games, shooter games, and sports games in most game markets in the world, now racing and sports games are both in a declining trend, only shooter games are still leading. Not only are there annual series games like Call of Duty, but there are always super hot games like Overwatch and APEX coming into the market from time to time. In the last few months alone, there have been Call of Duty: Vanguard, Battlefield 2042, Halo: Infinite, Super People, Ready or Not, and other shooters launched.

Why do shooting games never lose their appeal?

1. Seems difficult but easy to get hands-on

Every game genre that intends to be successful in the market has to consider the threshold for players to start to play because it determines the number of general users and also will in turn affect the number of core players.

The first impression shooters leave us is always high difficulty and competitiveness, with the shortest ttk (time-to-kill) among all kinds of games. But after careful thought, the operation of shooter games is actually the easiest in all genres, you just have to press the left button to shoot to have a chance to beat the enemy.

Combined with high competitiveness, it can be summed up to simple words: easy to learn but difficult to master. Shooter games are very simple to start because most of them use the same settings, such as WASD to walk, right-click to aim, left-click to shoot, move the mouse to adjust the perspective, which players are new to the game can adapt easily. In addition, many shooter games don't require players to choose different skills or understand their roles, or even no need to choose a weapon because the default one is enough. For new players, just shooting without thinking also brings a lot of fun, for PvC will not be as difficult as MMORPGs.

If other multiplayer games are like chess, then shooting games are more like the game of Go. In chess, each piece has its different move, you need to know some fixed rules at first, just like a knight have a maximum of 8 potential moves and some other rules, while in Go, the core rules are streamlined to just one, which is to make sure that every stone remaining on the board must have at least one open point. For someone who is new to any chess game, of course, the basic rule of Go is easier to remember, but if you want to be proficient at it, Go is much more difficult.

2. No fear of users churn for the similar mechanics

The benefit of simple rules is also obvious, which is that it is easier for players to change to another game they play in the long term. Take relatively popular MMORPG in the Chinese game market for example, if I turn to Justice Online from other MMORPGs, all my previously learned professional skills, game mechanics, and so on will be useless and I will probably have to learn more brand new content once again. Or if I would like to continue Justice Online after a long period of absence from the game, the cost of being familiar again with the controlling system is quite high with lots of new elements added, as I have forgotten most of the previous game experience, and it is very challenging to keep up with other players.

But for shooter games, there are no such problems. Players of shooters unusually do not limit themselves to one game, as a player may play CSGO while enjoying APEX as well, because the cost of learning mechanics in shooters is not as high as imagined, which just requires players to shoot. If you have the experience of playing PUBG, you will find that the learning cost of Super People is infinitely close to 0. Even the name of guns keeps the same, and the control feeling of guns is very similar.

Likewise, shooter games have a low cost of players coming back. If you haven't played shooters in a long time, it won't be hard to get your hands on those experiences again. If you've played CS 1.6 two decades ago and now turn to the popular CSGO, you will find that even the maps and guns remain the same, and you'll be able to easily pick it up once you get familiar with the gun feel. There is no need to worry about whether the relatively fixed elements within the game would limit the growth of the CS series, as one of the highest numbers of online users in the world, the number of CSGO's players have been steadily increasing, constantly attracting new players into the old series.

3. Rich themes, keeping the 'old' with new elements

Let's put aside the classic single-player shooter games such as DOOM, just to look at the multiplayer FPS game, we can easily see that the theme of shooting games also makes unceasing progress constantly.

First, starting with the classic CS, which represents the most traditional shooters, the contest between soldiers and terrorists set a good example to 2008 Crossfire. And that period of time is also a high-speed developing stage of domestic shooter accumulation. Later, Counter-Strike OL has launched the Zombie mode, which first brings the biochemical disaster, the new versus mode to the players, and its great success also proved that the hard-core shooters can also be extended to new sub-gameplay.

After that, different kinds of shooter mods came out, and they met different kinds of needs of players. In recent years, different branches of shooter games have launched onto the market. CSGO tends to keep traditional battle mode, sticking to its old path; Rainbow 6 Siege combined low-ttk shooting with hatch elements, requiring tactics and cooperation of players; Overwatch jumped out of nowhere, impressing the concept of Hero Shooter; PUBG entered with the Battle Royale game mode, being a hit all over the world and opening up a unique track of its own; APEX brought character skills to battle royale games, cultivating its own huge user base; finally, Super People, which began its close beta at the end of 2021, not only keeping skills but also adding the level-up elements of MMORPG to battle royale.

The history of the evolution of shooter themes is pleasing for players. We also found in our lab playtests that when recruiting shooter players, there are more and more young players tend to choose different kinds of shooter games, and they usually know a lot about brand new shooter games. Last time when we were preparing a playtest, we mentioned Ready or Not, a hardcore SWAT simulation shooter that had been released less than half a month at the time, and we didn't expect that many of the test players had known the name. Players of shooters keep a very open attitude to the new themes, while they don't reject traditional shooters either.

4. Feeling of guns, the core of the experience

Gun feels in shooters, probably the only thing that players need to adapt to when they rotate among different shooting games is what the players actually care about. A large part of the gun feel depends on the recoil system in the game. In the real world, the firearms with gunpowder will produce the recoil force when firing, due to the force point where we hold the gun is not in the extension line of the gun-barrel, so the recoil force will cause the rise a little bit while pushing the firearm backward at the same time, and the recoil pattern in the game actually refers to the movement of the camera of the player after each fire.

In earlier playtests of a shooting game, we found that players often had particularly heated discussions about the recoil system. The most concern is not that they don't want a recoil pattern, but rather that they want it more, and the focus is on how to adjust it, which brings us to the gun feel concept again.

In short, a good gun feel will make players more willing to stick to the game. If the recoil pattern is reduced or even removed, it won't improve the gaming experience, 100% accurate shooting experience is not what those players want. On the other hand, if the recoil pattern is designed overly realistic, it will improve the threshold of starting the game, thus creating a huge barrier for players.

Traditional CS-like games like CSGO, Crossfire, and Valorant, which are highly competitive games, rely on a recoil pattern to improve the gameplay of the gun system and make a balance between each gun through different recoil forces and directions. For example, for the same two rifles, if you do not pay attention to recoil control when using an AK47, not after a few shots the bullets will fly towards the sky, although the power of AK47 is huge; while the M4's recoil is relatively small, with a properly reduced firepower.

Some shooting game veterans use AK47 most of the time, while M4 is more suitable for new players, and that is simply associated with the ability of recoil controlling. In CSGO, the competition between the players includes the clear memory of different recoil forces and force directions of each gun, as well as the skill to offset the recoil force by moving the mouse.

Here is an exception, the use of firing in bursts instead of recoil patterns in shooter games. The more typical representatives are APEX, Call of Duty series, Battlefield series, and so on. The recoil of some guns in these games is relatively small, so players can fire while running, but the bullet is distributed in bursts randomly.

This kind of shooting game is testing players' judgment of the enemy's position and movement in the game, as well as the proficiency of moving the mouse to follow the sight on the objectives, commonly known as 'gun, follow of enemies'. If you have watched the live broadcast of APEX, you would definitely find that the player's gun follow of enemies process is very stable the most of time, and a whole magazine of bullets can basically hit the enemy.

5. Summary

Shooting gameplay will never go out of style, and this type of game has its own unique natural advantage to compete with other game genres. The content shared in this article is more from the game design and player experience perspective, while there are also many great minds trying to solve the problem from a more academic level.

PUBG players' in-game brainwave indicators, excerpted from Brain Intelligence with permission from the original author

For example, the tests of physiological and emotional indicators in the figure above, try to explain the PUBG player experience from the perspective of cognitive psychology. This is also the entry point for further detailed analysis afterward. But in any case, shooter games will definitely be one of the most important genres in the game industry, and we should never worry about players losing interest in it.

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