Casuallyhardcore.com is a great site where you can purchase awesome gaming clothing and accessories. They also have news, reviews and updates to keep you in-tune with the gaming world. We were lucky enough to catch up with Marc, the brain-child behind this massive merchandise empire…
UG: First off, great title. How did you come up with “Casually Hardcore”?
Marc: Back in 2001 or 2002 I was working at GAME, a large video game store in the UK. All the members of staff were great friends and back then you was either a hardcore gamer or a casual gamer. Hardcore gamers were seen as the geeks of video games, a bit like the guys from The Big Bang Theory, all they did was play them. Casual gamers played the latest FIFA or racing game but didn’t really care for much else.
Everyone who worked in the store was either a hardcore gamer who knew their stuff or casual and only had a passing interest. But that didn’t matter, it was a games shop that sold games to people of all ages so it worked well. One of my friends there who was by the very definition, a hardcore gamer (He bought Japanese imports for Saturn and Dreamcast games) would often say i was a Hardcore gamer. I knew my stuff, i played loads of games but I could still talk to people about other things. Gaming was my life but i also had a life outside of video games. Being a hardcore gamer was sort of derogatory back then, like some loser geek. So i created the phrase Casually Hardcore. Someone who is casual about being a hardcore gamer and that’s how I defined myself.
That’s where the name was born from and as I was already making video game websites back then, it became a name and now a brand that has stuck. I actually think now a lot of gamers are Casually Hardcore, rather than hardcore gamers, they have the figures, the limited editions and shelves filled with games. But now they have families or girlfriends or enjoy things outside of video games. The name has been around since 2003 online but has changed and evolved over the years to what we have now.
UG: Being around since 2007, what would you say was the hardest thing about getting an online merchandise site off the ground?
Marc: Theres 2 things. What gamers say they want and copyrights. Gamers are always saying online, like on NeoGaf or other forums how they want video game clothing made just for them. How they want it to be subtle or obvious so they can dress like a gamer in public. Show off their passion on a shirt. But when you provide that for them you have the difficulty of telling them where to find it and also the fact that most gamers online say what they want but then don’t follow through. I think a few games companies and film companies have found that to be very costly. Scott Pilgrim had rave reviews at Comic Con but flopped when out on release and there’s many more examples out there.
The hardest for us is trademarks and copyrights. Most other sites tread a very fine line between infringing copyrights and parody which is something we tend to avoid. We’d love to put pictures of a guy who looks very similar to Mario on a shirt, because it’d sell. But at the same time we don’t want to step on the toes of the companies we admire most and they are well within reason to put their foot down and protect their brands.
That’s why we’ve worked with companies to create exclusive ranges of shirts like our Official Uncharted Shirts, or Alan Wake Hoodies or Kwalee merch. We’ve got more coming from official brands but we also like to make stuff that is unique, about video games but doesn’t infringe.
UG: When first starting the site, did you have gaming reviews and news as well as clothing, or did you expand into those categories later?
Marc: I first made a video game website back in 2001, reviewing the latest games, writing news and generally just messing about. In 2003 i changed the brand to Casually Hardcore as i thought it was a better name than what i had previously and this carried on for a couple of years.
Then life got in the way, such as actually working in the video games industry so the site was put on hiatus for a few years. I’d been itching to make video game t-shirts i could wear for years so finally i just went for it. The site came back without the news, reviews and features and for a year was all about gamer shirts and video game clothing. But i had another itch, to review games, to write random stuff about video games. I could talk about video games all day long if you paid me to. So they came back in a limited way. We’re not the next Kotaku and frankly there’s a million sites out there already trying to be just like them, we don’t need another. So we cover news that interests us, reviews on games we love (or hate) that may be years old by the time we get a review up and features most sites don’t normally talk about. For example we have articles about how to get into the video games industry written by people who have tried and succeeded. Most of the team at Casually Hardcore have worked in the Games Industry at one time or another so we have a great insight which most journalists don’t have.
Plus there is all those years of reviews and features from nearly 10 years ago which we’ve started re adding. We call them Re-reviews where we paste the entire review as it was originally written and then add-on at the end an updated review to see if the game has stood the test of time and if we still agree with the original review. IGN and the like have years of content, but is it still relevant? It’s always nice to look back to what we thought years ago but sometimes it is horribly wrong.
UG: The “submit a design” option is a great idea. How many designs do you have submitted on a yearly basis?
Marc: Very few actually. So come on, submit a design! If you’ve got a great idea just let us know! We don’t advertise it much to be fair. Most people who visit our site see a shirt they want and buy it. They don’t want to spend time making one in the hope we accept it.
We also allow customers to create their own video game shirts anyways. So if they are desperate for their design on a shirt or to take our current designs and customise them, they can simply and quickly.
But we always love to hear from our customers great ideas they have. You don’t have to be an artist, it could be a few lines of text describing your idea or a layered PSD file with it done exactly how you want it. We are always open to ideas and always want to find out what people think we are missing from our store.
UG: How do you come up with your T-shirt design ideas?
Marc: Some are just obvious, like our ‘Just One More Life’ or ‘Pwned’ shirts. Others come from memorable elements in games like our Sonic Cheat Code shirt, up, down, left, right, A+Start. That’s so engrained in my mind that it had to become a shirt.
Others are inspired by games themselves, such as the our Uncharted Quote shirts like Kitty Got Wet. Everyone remembers that for being so random and it had to go on a shirt. Sometimes its all 3 or none at all and a random idea pops into our head or a design turns out differently than expected. We try to cater for the gamers who want to be obvious, those that want retro tees and those that want something funny or subtle.
Video game shirts are nothing to be ashamed of anymore, loads of people wear them, we even have one of the largest women’s video game clothing sections out there and for good reason too.
UG: Any designs that turned out to be a surprising Best Seller?
Marc: There are. Sometimes you can spend days on a design, making it complex and detailed and no one cares. You can then spend 3 minutes putting some text on a shirt and you can’t get them out fast enough. Sadly there is no magic formula, sometimes shirts sell like hot cakes for a few weeks and then never sell again or for months a design may not be popular and then all of a sudden it becomes popular for a long time.
Some designs have built-in expiration dates, for example our Red Ring Of Death Shirts were hugely popular. But no one talks about that anymore so their popularity has declined. Hopefully Zombies will stay popular for years to come. But it is always interesting to see what designs are popular and in what context. Some shirts sell great for parents buying for their kids, even designs you think would suit adults more.
UG: Under the clothing headings for men and women, there is an option to buy “Video Game Underwear”. Can you please define what “Video Game Underwear” is? 🙂
Marc: It’s exactly what it says on the tin, underwear with video game stuff on it. All of our designs can be found on Mens Boxers, Womens boy briefs and girls thongs. So why not check out our huge collection of underwear, some designs become hilarious just by being on a thong whilst for others it brings new meanings. They make great gifts, much better than a boring pair of underwear for christmas
UG: Casually Hardcore offers 100% satisfaction. How are you able to guarantee that?
Marc: We offer a 30 day guarantee on EVERYTHING we sell. We want to make sure your item reaches you in perfect condition. Buying clothes online is difficult, what if the size is wrong or the colour is slightly different to what the monitor showed. What about the feel of the item? All of those are unknown and whilst we try our best to provide detailed descriptions of everything as well as size guides, it’s not the same as trying it on in person.
As we can also create customer shirts for customers we want to make sure you are happy with how the design appears on the final shirt.
So to make sure you are 100% satisfied with your order, you have 30 days to ask for a replacement or for a full refund, which should give you plenty of time to make sure it’s the right colour or right size.
We offer this because we can and we want first time buyers to have trust in us before they become life long customers after their first order.
UG: What is the next big thing for Casually Hardcore? Any announcements you’d like to make?
Marc: Sadly no major announcements just yet but we are working on a few things and The Unpaid Gamers will be the first to know. We’ve got some more official brands in the works and we add a new design almost every 2 weeks along with our usual news and features. We just need to get the word out there more. So like us on facebook/casuallyhardcore – follow us on twitter/chgamershirts and get exclusive discount codes and chances to win some of our shirts for free!
Great interview Marc! Make sure you visit the Casually Hardcore Website. It is a great site with many awesome designs!