FEATURE: The Rise of the Woman Gamer

Wednesday, November 21, 2007
This article concerning the female gamer demographic, written by Sande Chen of Women in Games International. Enjoy!

Recent studies from Telephia and Park Associates underscore anecdotal evidence that women play mobile games, and pay for them, too!  In fact, the Telephia report states women dominated revenue generation for all mobile game categories except Action/Adventure. Females particularly enjoy puzzle and arcade games, as indicated by the current Top 10 mobile game sales by revenue share. That's similar to the downloadable casual game market, where it is already noted that female players outnumber male players. While the large casual game portals have recognized and catered to female players, their sports titles regularly go unnoticed by female players more interested in the card, word or puzzle games.

For years, popular wisdom claimed females were not interested in video games or if they were, they weren't willing to pay for games. Therefore, publishers were not interested in seeking out the female market. Perhaps it had to do with the distinction between "casual" and "hardcore" players. In the past, hardcore gamers routinely dismissed little games that lacked state-of-the-art technology. But with Geometry Wars, the minigame included in Xbox's Project Gotham Racing 2, evolving into the most downloaded game at Xbox Live Arcade, even traditional hardcore gamers are turning to casual games. The explosion in casual game development has shown there is certainly money to be made in this area.

Women are loyal customers. Those infatuated with The Sims were willing to buy every expansion pack connected to the series. Girl titles have a longer shelf time and sell for longer periods of time. Word-of-mouth advertising is very important in reaching female customers. Build a brand that appeals to women and you may have them hooked. The hit casual game Luxor has had over 40 million downloads since its debut in 2005 and the newest tie-in, Luxor Mahjong, is already among the top downloads in casual games.

While girls' preferences in games have been studied, the actual elements in a game that attracts women are still unquantifiable. There is no magic formula. Women differ greatly and have very different tastes. Some like Halo for its cooperative play. Others have no interest in first-person shooters. In general, to attract a certain market, understanding the customers' needs and wants is paramount. In addition to understanding the fun factor, think about what the customer's purpose is in playing the game. Is she using it to relax, to socialize, to compete?

One strategy is to design games that appeal to everyone, which would make the game gender-inclusive. This means the content is gender-neutral and there is recognition that the player may be female. This does not mean to "dumb it down" but to erase assumptions about what the player may or may not know. Focus groups or play-testing may help in this regard, at least to get a different perspective.

Traditionally, within the industry, game designers designed games they wanted to play. Since computer programmers/game designers of that period (and still are) predominately male, the market has been geared toward males. It should be noted that Centipede, the first arcade game designed by a woman, was the first game popular with female players. There may have even been more female players than male players for Centipede. This does not mean male designers cannot design games that appeal to females, only that it has been seen that a woman's input in design can be very useful in reaching the female market.

According to the October 2005 IGDA report, "Game Developer Demographics: An Exploration of Workforce Diversity," 10% of game designers are female and overall, females comprise 11.5% of surveyed game developers. The majority of females in the industry are not in production jobs, but fall under the category of operations, information technology, or human resources. There are, of course, other industries with unequal gender parity, but it should not be given to status quo. Research on diversity in companies does indicate diversity in the workforce leads to greater productivity and profitability.

If revenue share is a goal, then courting the female customer in the mobile sector is an absolute. A woman will be the typical mobile game player. Women already actively download other forms of mobile content and if mobile games appeal to them, they have the disposable income to buy them. Design of the games will need consideration in terms of gender-inclusiveness and accessibility. Furthermore, increasing workforce diversity will help enormously in understanding and reaching the targeted audience.


Post a Comment

Waqas Sadiq © 2014