One of the definitions about the word niche states a place or position suitable or appropriate for a person or thing; a distinct segment of a market. When used as an adjective, it is defined as pertaining to or intended for a niche market; have a special appeal. Each genre of gaming has something unique and available to everyone who wants to play something different.
During the NES/Master System/Arcade days, things were being thrown out to see what sticks and what doesn’t. Bad, good, strange, or budget, we would be drawn to them because they were video games. Since most of what was played came from Japan, nobody knew what was niche at the time.
For many of us, we didn’t discover the word and what it meant until the PlayStation 1 days. If I had to guess, I would say importing was very niche. Seeing games that never came to America from Japan, I got a better understanding of it when I started to hear about anime. There was a small community of people spending money on tapes for shows and then learning about what cosplay was. When some of these things started to come from video games, I was fascinated.
To see a market grow little by little is surprising at times. Being niche isn’t bad because it has a flair of having dedicated fans and supporters. It’s enough to sell copies to keep that business afloat and keep prints of those games limited which saves money. Now that we’re in the digital age of gaming, niche products are close to being nonexistent. Nothing wrong with that but it has led to many ups and downs for a community of gamers.
Eventually, though, a business is a business and not everything can stay small. If there is a rising cost that can’t be ignored, you need a bigger success. No matter how word of mouth marketing goes, being niche isn’t profitable when production of a game is increased. When Arcades played a major part in the ’80s and ’90s, pinball to unknown publishers can come out with something exciting and players would try it out. Even if it wasn’t seen as the next thing, it may have some innovation in it. Yet sadly, due to it being ignored, a lot of companies didn’t make it and their games became forgotten.
Now in this modern era, its good to reflect how companies and their titles were niches in the past and now has become a big contribution to the gaming landscape. Growing their small community and bring in new people into their market, the idea of being niche has allowed consistency due to committed fans. Now that gaming has expanded, there are titles and companies being recognized.
For every Capcom and Konami we know, the Wayforwards, Atlus, and more who were on a tiny scale have a lot of their niche products become fitting to many. As long as their fun and keep being fresh enough to satisfy that market, within time, growth will come. That’s kind of, well, niche.