Secret lives: The games women play

The full article is here, and is by Diego Vasquez and Media Life Magazine.

According to a new study conducted by Harris Interactive for RealNetworks, two-thirds of these women [over 40] play digital, arcade, card or word games per week, and about 60 percent of them prefer games to talking on the phone, knitting or doing home improvement projects. Half say they prefer game playing to watching a movie or cooking. And nearly a third prefer games to TV watching.

The story is an interview with Michael Schutzler, senior VP of RealNetwork’s games division. Check out these RealNetwork financial numbers that I’ve reported previously – they prove that he knows what he’s talking about, that he’s on to something, and that RealNetwork money and lots of other money are sure to chase this trend:

Digital media firm RealNetworks Inc. multiplied its second-quarter earnings thanks to growth in its music and game businesses… Revenue rose 8% to a record $89.4 million, driven by a 55% jump in games revenue to $21.2 million and a 21% increase in music revenue to $30.1 million

Check out these projections for the casual games he’s talking about: The compound growth rate per year for the online short session market (eg casual games) is projected to be 34% per year, every year, from 2005 through 2010.

Important point from Schutzler about the different ways people like to play:

This audience, women over 40, are using them because they are inherently interruptible. [Gamers] can come back five minutes later or three days later and pick up where they left off. It doesn’t have an addictive element like a role playing game has, which require hours of investment.

And:

Where will it top out?

Well, last year there were 100 million people that played casual games. That’s a lot of people. I think we have a long way to go, probably a decade, before this industry starts to top out.

And:

we’ve known for a long time that women were a predominant factor here. But the bigger insight that’s come out of the research is that this population of customers isn’t really interested in head-to-head competition.

They’re not using it to compete, they’re using it to keep their brains sharper, to meditate, rejuvenate. They want to do it on their terms, how they want to, when they want to. There’re implications here about how we market these games rather than how we design them. If there’s growth, it will be, “How do we attract gamers other than women over 40?”

I really really like that: “they’re using it to keep their brains sharper, to meditate, rejuvenate.”

I have to respectfully differ on the point that it’s not about how we design games. Sure, the marketing is critical too, but many of his previous points imply that it’s also a lot about game design – at least about the aspects of game design that relate to style of play, and to how the player experiences the game. For instance, this demographic isn’t looking for an MMO lifestyle.

Another broad point that all this makes me think about: There’s room for lots of different kinds of games, and lots of different kinds of gamers.

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One thought on “Secret lives: The games women play

  1. […] Women are making an increasing appearance in the gaming arena. Wii and interactive PC games respond … Nintendo Wii is among the first systems to implement programming specifically to target the older, non-gaming and female audiences. Wii creators have realized their explosion into a larger demographic, but is everyone else keeping up? The answer is yes, or at least attempting to do so. The PlayStation 3 has also tried to break out of its “shell” but with less success. The price of the PS3 helps to limit the amount of consoles available to young gamers, especially children. Many parents are hesitant to pay $599 so that their ten year old can increase his gaming abilities. In order to increase its appeal to the masses PS3 creators tend to advertise the consoles Blue-ray and CELL technologies, instead of the focus of its predecessors. In an attempt to make this a more “adult friendly” machine, the PlayStation may have in fact detached itself from its most reliable demographic, young teenage males counting on getting the latest and greatest from their parents for Christmas. Only time will tell how the PS3 holds up to the competition. Nielsen studies track the booming generation of women participating in online gaming communities. What is being done to address the need for more “female friendly” gaming opportunities? Little adjustments here and there, major changes are now popping up in all systems that change the stereotype of antisocial, basement gamer. The most popular systems: Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 are all built around networking capabilities that allow interaction between participants. As a gamer, female or male, you are no longer isolated to play by yourself but automatically plugged into a virtually endless community. As programmers and developers work at increasing their demographic and chasing the flagship waves created by the Nintendo Wii we can look forward to more interaction and a definite change in the stereotypical “gamer”. […]

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