|The Next Frontier - Female Gaming Demographics
By Wanda Meloni
As an analyst
I am drawn to trends that shift markets. I see nothing shifting the gaming
market more significantly right now than the impact that girls and women are
having on the industry. The growth and market dynamics related to female
players are utterly fascinating.
As a female I
am drawn to the personal impact this growth means to me. At M2 Research we have
several female analysts now. So yes, it is a personal topic for us here. One of our
analysts is extremely versed in MMOs, both casual and core. Her World of
Warcraft rogue character made the US top 50 Guild. So besides being a hardcore
gamer and an analyst for M2 Research, she is also over 35, and a mom of three
small children. The reality is games are
not just for one particular type of player any more.
Steady but Slow Road for Consoles
girls are being exposed to console games, especially as their fathers introduce
them to that world as a way to bond with them. In late November, president of
Nintendo America, Reggie Fils-Aime presented several data points outlining
the current gender breakdown of console play in the U.S. Reggie estimates there
are 45 million people playing video games as the primary players in the U.S. Of
those, Nintendo is estimating 26% are female, or roughly 11.7 million.
Of those, 80% are on the Wii, 11% are on the Xbox 360 and 9%
are on the PS3.
- Wii - 80% = 9.3 million
- X360 - 11% = 1.29 million
- PS3 - 9% = 1.05 million
- Total = 11.7 million Females
of Sony told us, "Before the holidays we made a big push in our advertising
campaign by appealing to a wider demographic. Women see the benefit of having a
game console that also works as a Blu-ray player, and that has definitely
boosted our sales into the dual-console households."
And David Dennis,
Microsoft's Xbox 360 spokesperson believes that, "Certainly
social networking functionality like Twitter and Facebook appeal to a female
audience. Studies have found that in general, most social networks have more
female users than male, including Twitter (about 59% female) and Facebook
(about 57% female). In addition to Facebook and Twitter, there is a lot of
functionality in Xbox LIVE that appeals to women. With Xbox LIVE parties, users can connect and share movies, music,
photos and gaming experiences with friends on the same couch or across the
country. Women are an important audience for us, and we're offering a variety
of entertainment experiences that will appeal to them."
Growth is in PC Online Gaming
Unlike the console
market, where the gender discrepancy is still significant, the PC gaming market
is pretty close to even when it comes men and women. The openness of the
platform and social element of the internet remains a significant factor.
estimates there are roughly 130 million women currently playing online PC games
worldwide, and 140 million men. And we see that figure growing steadily over
the next several years for both men and women.
online PC games has worked for a couple of reasons:
is a platform females already know well enough to navigate around
has the social networking components females gravitate towards
casual and social gaming are all games that appeal to women and they are all PC
Look at the
gender split between GTA4 and some of the other games.
estimated that close to 40% of all World of Warcraft players are female, or almost 3 million players. In November, Blizzard announced its first virtual pet would go on sale. In a 2 month period the company sold over
200,000 for $10 each, equaling $2 million on one virtual pet item.
who until recently was General Manager of Social Games at TrialPay and now VP
of Social Gaming at Big Fish, "Typically, women account for about 60% of all
virtual goods transactions, although different game genres attract different
audiences--for example, poker games might be more male-centric while games that
let you care for pets might appeal more to the female demographic."
released findings from a survey they sponsored that showed:
average social gamer is a 43 year old female
say they play social games several times a day
are more inclined to play with real-life friends
The Chief Household Officer
research done by Mindshare/Ogilvy
& Mather, women account for 85% of all consumer purchases. U.S. women spend more than $5 trillion annually on
consumer goods and services:
- Women account for 85% of all
- 22% shop on line at least once a day
- 61% influence consumer electronic
- Women account for 66% of all PC purchases
Jeremy Lewis, CEO of Big Fish Games, calls them the Chief Household Officer.
"Games are a universal pleasure. Whereas traditional gaming companies
are focused on young males, at Big Fish Games, our audience is global, more
than 80 percent female, and so engaged that on any given day, we distribute 1.5
million games. Our primary customers, young women and chief household officers,
as we like to call them, enjoy a broad variety of games on our site, including
puzzles, hidden objects and solitaire, all of which provide women with the
opportunity to escape relax and have fun."
current economy, where frivolity on household spending has taken a back seat, women
and moms are opting for Free-to-Play options for their kids whenever possible.
Additionally, used game sales continue to increase.
GameStop's used sales were up significantly in 2009 from 2008, growing
from $887 million to $1,109 billion for the six months ending August 1.
Chief Marketing Officer of Goozex, an online video game trading company,
explains what his company is witnessing, "There are two main purchasers, men
purchasing for themselves or their children, and women purchasing for their
children. In the case of the women, they control 100% of their account
activity. In other words, the children requested games to Mom, who then placed
the order on Goozex. And we see this group growing."
Move Away from 'Pink It and Shrink It"
still so many stereotypes about women and girls. Many marketers believe that
females will only buy something if it is pink and covered in sparkles. It is
also a misconception that women are not interested in shooting and highly
competitive games - this is a stereotypical opinion that try's to pigeonhole
all female buyers into the same prototype. That is simply not true; to
stereotype all females is the same as saying men and boys only like violent
All you have
to do is look at other industries that prosper with both men and women. For
example, 40% of the 6.6 million people attending Winston Cup car races each
year are women. Now, personally I haven't been to the Winston Cup, but I follow
Formula One racing, watch it religiously, have been to a race, bought F1
products, and know that Brits have won the championship the last two years.
CEO of Her Interactive has been focused on building games for girls for over
ten years. Her Interactive is the successful creator of The Nancy Drew games,
which have consistently placed on NPD's top 10 best selling game month after
month. Some months it's even beat out World of Warcraft, Spore and The Sims.
joined Her Interactive, the company was told to make the products pink and
girls will come. Megan explains, "That is about as simplified an explanation as
saying, make it violent and boys will come. So we decided to go strategically
UNPINK, and guess what, the girls still came."
This is where
game companies need to look to other forms of entertainment to bridge the gap.
In films, the top box-office hits are films that attract men and women. Movies
like Avatar and Dark Knight appeal to a wide range of people. In the music
industry, men and women are equal in their purchasing of music. There is nothing wrapped in pink, except maybe Lady Gaga and Pink.
Closing Thoughts (But Not the End of
There is no
denying that core gamers have been the mainstay for the industry for the last
10 year. However the market has grown. There are now wide sweeping segments of
the population that make up the patchwork of gamers.
start looking at the numbers, there is a critical mass already in play. All you
have to do is look at Zynga. With $250 million in sales and 233 million users,
Zynga has a $3 billion valuation right now. Compare that to EA and its current valuation
of $5.6 billion.
We feel this analysis
is just touching the surface. There is so much more that needs to be addressed
in terms of studying the demographics of these different patchworks, and this is something
M2 Research is focused on.
the biggest issue is making intelligent, engaging games for whatever target
market you are trying to reach. Girls on average are no more inclined to buy a
portable gaming system because its pink than a boy wanting a system simply
because it is blue. Consumers, no matter what the age or gender, want to be
engaged and challenged.
The demand is
there and the revenue opportunities are there.