Girls Got Game

Discussion
Mar 08, 2007

By George Anderson

They get sucked in. You can tell by the glazed eyes and the irritation they show when anyone or anything interrupts them battling some evil force or attempting a skateboard jump to make Tony Hawk proud.

They are the male children of America and a generation or more have been drawn to the call of video games. (Okay, we’re being way melodramatic here.) In total, 1.6 million consumers in the U.S., kids (and adults also, to be fair) are engaged in some form of video gaming, whether it’s on a PS3, Wii or Xbox.

Until now, it has largely been viewed as a guy thing where girls, being much more sensible and conscious of using their time productively, have dabbled from time-to-time but largely gone about pursuing other interests.

There’s no doubt that when it comes to gaming, guys are console-ready. According to numbers from Nielsen’s State of the Console report, two-thirds of males 18 to 34 have a video game console in their homes. Younger boys have an even higher access to video games. The overall gaming population, however, is aging with the median player aged 17 compared to 15 in the fourth quarter of 2004.

What was surprising in the Nielsen research was the increasingly high number of girls and women who have caught the gaming bug.

“Seeing the amount of reach gaming has in teenage girls and women 18 to 34 is pretty impressive,” Nick Covey, marketing analytics and development manager at Nielsen Gameplay Metrics, and author of the report, told Ad Age. “Part of that might represent the increasingly multimedia use [of the gaming console].”

While gamers spend quite a bit of time in front of a screen with a controller in their hands, Nielsen numbers suggest that, when the gaming is over, the television viewing begins.

“Our data show key demos are consuming more TV in addition to gaming,” said Mr. Covey. “There’s this whole notion of multitasking and media competing for their attention but they seem to have the ability to consume more of everything.”

Discussion Questions: Is there anything to be read into a growing number of girls and young women moving into a category (gaming) previously thought to be part of a boys’ club? How do you square the increase in female gamers with the fact that the vast majority of titles on the market are targeted to guys? What does all this mean for retailers and game marketers?

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10 Comments on "Girls Got Game"


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Matt Werhner
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Matt Werhner
15 years 2 months ago

The majority of games are designed with the male consumer in mind and the gender bias will continue to lean in this direction. Some of the top selling video game series–Halo, Call of Duty, Madden Football and Zelda–are in the action/violence, adventure and sports categories; typically a much stronger draw for males.

There seems to be an opportunity for growth, not with younger females, but with the upper ages of the male 18-34 category. Nintendo is making a strong effort to reach these consumers with their new Wii console. OK, more girls and women are playing video games, but are they buying?

M. Jericho Banks PhD
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M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 2 months ago
Females have been “gaming” males since the beginning of time. This should not come as a shock to any alert male (you know who you are, and you also know who you aren’t–the “Duh Factor” kicks in right about now). “Gaming,” in its broadest sense, was invented by women. Lowering themselves to a man’s gaming-level must be like child’s play to them. Among other splendiferous attributes, women have opposable thumbs, are more clever than men, have a greater tolerance for pain (e.g., childbirth and “controller thumb syndrome”), and have faster reaction times (check out the NHRA rankings). And check out those game controllers! Are they made for children or for women? They’re much too small for large hands. NBA players who enjoy videogames often ask manufacturers for larger controllers. Females are finally discovering that the things they always thought were attractive to men (not good at science, obsessed with fashion, no business acumen, etc.) are pure hogwash. They are as good or better than the best of the males. They shoot pool better, they win… Read more »
Bill Blais
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Bill Blais
15 years 2 months ago
While it’s entirely clear that the gaming trend is showing an increased female ratio, I have yet to read an article (and I admit my own likely lack of awareness, here) that actually discusses the definition–and sub-definitions–of “game.” I think this is at least as important as the trend itself. As it currently stands, my interpretation of “video game” is not console-specific, though the article above is clearly focused there. For me, “video game” refers to anything digital; from consoles to PCs to MMOs (inclusive of WoW and The Sims, for example) to online “tabletop” games like Backgammon, as well as online games of chance, and don’t forget the innumerable variations of Tetris. I would actually bet the female ratio is far higher if this larger definition is considered, and I think there is an enormous amount of benefit from identifying the various sub-genres. However, even within the console games, I–like Matthew Wehrner above, I would imagine–would like to know what specific games these girls and women are playing. I would agree with Matthew that… Read more »
Ed Dennis
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Ed Dennis
15 years 2 months ago

There is no mention of what kind of games were included in the survey. My experience would indicate that the electronic games often found in bars (Bennigans, Hooters, Fridays) are often programmed with games designed for women. The largest manufacturers of commercial touch screen video games has made an effort to appeal to women. They have added games that involve displaying Chippendale dancers right beside their Penthouse Pets. Other games such as “Gender Bender” are designed to pit the girls against the guys. I believe this “interest” in video games is partially the result of marketing efforts by the Video Game industry. I don’t think women’s interest have really changed that much. I do think that the game manufacturers are hell bent to capture some of the 52% of the market they have been missing.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 2 months ago
Melodramatic my eye, George. You sound like one who knows whereof he speaks. To use an expression that I usually find intensely irritating, it could be said that video games are the new board games. In a lifetime where lifestyle is far more important than life itself i.e. living it, and we are inundated in “culture” of a new sort (compensation etc.), there is some mileage in the old advice that if you can’t lick ’em, you should join ’em. The New York Times recently had a piece about families playing games together – another old adage–the family that plays together stays together. I’m not yet sufficiently converted to acknowledge that there may be an element of fun in withdrawing from real life to replace it with artificial creations and their even more aggressive natures but I do recognise that more people are spending less time in face to face interaction. Children are being brought up to fear whatever goes on outside the four walls of their homes or schools. They are not allowed out… Read more »
Brian Anderson
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

As Faith popcorn wrote in 2000, There are eight essential truths of EVEolution–the trend that will redefine the way companies create profitable and lasting relationships with women.

– Connecting your female consumer to each others; connects then to Your Brand.
– If You’re marketing to one of her lives, You’re missing all the others.
– If she has to ask, it’s too late.
– Market to her peripheral vision and she will see you in a whole new light.
– Walk, run, go to her, secure her loyalty forever.
– This generation of women consumers will lead you to the next.
– Co-parenting is the best way to raise a brand.
– Everything matters–You can’t hide behind Your Logo.

Simply put, whoever is currently leading this charge will change the industry.

Gregory Belkin
Guest
Gregory Belkin
15 years 2 months ago
The fact that females are starting to “catch the gaming bug” isn’t really all that surprising to me. Two days ago, the BrainTrust sent out an article about Gen-Yers. That article brings up the fact that this generation has become more tech-savvy than any other generation before them. The movement of more females to gaming goes hand-in-hand with this trend. More savvyness with technology (and all the media that goes along with it) brings along more curiosity about different ways to enjoy different media. Gen Y females and males are on a course to come together, as a group, and take full advantage of different types of media. It may take a while, but it seems to be happening. So, how do we square the increase in female gamers with the fact that the vast majority of titles on the market are targeted to guys? Simple. My money says that this will likely change as the number of females who use the gaming system rises. Marketers are smart: they will see the trends, and change… Read more »
Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

In our technology focused society, where anonymity is the norm, it only makes sense that gaming, and the multimedia fusion (including TV) that results afterwards, would be unisex in nature. Although historically a male-centric activity, this only shows the true impact that these technologies have on our society and its shift from a male-focused, uni-centric one to an anonymous, multi-media fusion of full-motion video and sound. Whatever form this takes shape in (including videogames, TV, music videos, etc.), it is appealing to the young of all types, regardless of sex. Not segmenting these markets properly and differentiating your products in this multimedia haze will only result in product death. Understanding the focus of each segment and properly targeting a differentiated product to each segment will determine who the true winners are in this technology growth cycle.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Does it signal the end of civilization as we know it?

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Classic gender roles are strong, but declining. The electronic game data is one of many data points proving the decline of gender stereotype differences in our society. The decline has been taking place for at least a couple of generations. Look at the number of women taking formerly male-only jobs or the number of high schools and colleges where girls’ and women’s sports teams are increasingly prominent.

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