Bit Tech just published an editorial titled Dumbing Up Gaming, which discusses the issues faced by game developers and publishers always having to dumb down games.
"Recently someone tried to make a game out of protein folding. The idea was that if you could make an accessible fun game out of it, you could effectively get lots of people to process real data for free, and contribute towards a worthwhile goal. Great idea, but do we have to assume the game needs to be massively simple in order to catch on? I'm sure a lot of biochemists play computer games, why must we assume they are incapable of learning a complex game?
You can take a lot of great game ideas, and then dumb then down to the lowest common denominator and make them boring and dull, that's a given. There are some great game ideas though that you just can't dumb down before they fall apart. Right now that means the game doesn't even get out of the starting gate.
I've heard of games flopping because the marketing sucked, budget problems, piracy and poor design but I haven't heard about any big games failing because they were too highbrow. Yet nobody is even trying to make those games.
In some ways it's all the fault of our old nemesis, the rocketing game budget. Rack up a four million dollar wage bill, and you need to sell a LOT of copies to break even. Selling just to biochemists won't cut it any more, you need to aim at the wider audience. But if you avoid the technology arms race and do a lower budget game, what kind of games could we make?"