Psychochild has a great series of post over on his blog, rounded off recently with the post "Defining the Middlecore".
His essential definition, and one I'm inclined to agree with for the most part, is that today's "middlecore" players (both console and PC) are those lads and lasses that were once the hardest of the hardcore in their youth and now due to real life commitments are cattled into playing under "casual" time constraints. The middlecore gamer still wants the hardcore games... just on a casual time schedule.
I say I agree with this, because this is what I am. It fits me perfectly. When I started playing MMOs I was in high school. I had a very lax part-time job and a girlfriend. Now I'm a graduate, I have a full-time job, a wife and all of that baggage. Suddenly I find myself with 2 hours or less to play most nights, and yet I'm still in the boat that I want a game that's deep and meaningful. I want something rewarding with plenty of details to dig into.
I own a Wii. I love the controller. I love playing tennis. But dammit if I see one more mini-game announced for that little white system I'm going to explode into tiny pieces of Bildo all over my house. So here I am, a longtime fan of Nintendo, still clinging to them and absolutely thrilled that their kicking ass in sales these days once more... but nothing in the very near future outside of Metroid Prime 3 holds any interest for me. Manhunt 2 did, but now that's not coming anytime soon either. The Wii is a casual gamer's haven. And every so often I love to sit down and play one of its games for a little while with a family member. But, a deep and compelling experience, thus far it's not.
So I can turn to my PC... if I have the power to run the games coming out there. There was a time when 2 gigs of RAM and an ATI x1650 would have been a beastly machine... that time was 3 months ago. The PC hardware race moves too fast for most people like me to afford to keep up with. So many times, unless I have money to shell out on a new card, new PC games aren't meant for me.
Thank God, then, for the MMO. And as much as I'm sad to say it... thank God for WoW. Had WoW not come along and shown developers that it's okay to make solo play viable; that it's okay to make leveling less of a pain, I'd be sitting at my desk every night wishing I had the time to play EQ1... then ultimately resigning to Peggle because I only have an hour to play for the rest of my life.
I guess what I'm getting at, albeit in the form of a long-winded rant, is that if you're anything like me, you're probably pretty confused as a gamer right now. The industry is going into a "casual" creedo phase... and while the notion of casual works for our busy schedules, the content of the games does not satisfy.
So what does it take to feed the "middlecore"? Because my stomach would like to know.