Pew! Pew! Mega Man X, the SNES classic, has been reworked, and it is now available for your iPhone and iPod touch for $4.99 USD. Pretty neat, eh? Well, for those of you with more dollars than skill, you can also purchase Mega Man’s upgrades through in-app purchases instead of winning them the old-fashioned way. That, my friends, leads me to what I find the most interesting about this game.
For the past ten to fifteen years, a portion of the gaming market (Read: teh hardcorez) has been complaining about the lack of difficulty in modern games as compared to the days of yore. Fairly recently, we have seen a trend in games that makes both the casual and hardcore gamers happy: the easy button. I’m not talking about predefined levels of difficulty, mind you. For example, everyone plays the same levels on Angry Birds. If you’re skilled or incredibly persistent, you get to play all of the levels. As for the rest of the population, certain levels will give us enough of a problem that we’ll just stop playing altogether. That’s where the easy button comes in.
By offering an easy button, the casual gamers get to skip through the hard parts to the rest of the game while the experts can enjoy their hours of toiling. It’s win-win. For some games, the recent Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Wii for example, the easy button appears automatically when you fail a level enough times. For platforms like iOS, the easy button is a great way for devs to squeeze a little more money out of their casual gaming customers by offering the easy button for a price. Discussion of the ethics of this tactic is beyond the scope of this article, but I’m glad that it exists at all. The easy button allows us to have our cake and eat it too.