Game Industry Finally Notices Girls
Design, baby-sitting video games target a growing market.
Jason Ashley Wright
January 13, 2009
Pink for girls, blue for boys. Those are the traditional colors assigned to either sex after birth, be it paint on a nursery room wall or the 11th identical onesie given at a baby shower.
From there, it could be sheriff stars and dinosaurs for boys, dolls and tea sets for girls. But what about video games?
Stereotypes aside, the booming video game industry is becoming less male-oriented.
With the release of Nintendo DS and Wii, "we're starting to see a much higher influx of female gamers," said Rich Valiquette, director of development for Tornado Studios in Tulsa. And major publishers are starting to take notice.
Tornado Studios is a new company based off an old one called 2015, which produced popular games like "Men of Valor" and "Medal of Honor: Allied Assault," Valiquette said. Now, they're working on a game that's geared largely toward girls. He couldn't give more details than that, but it's expected to come out this year.
A recent study showed that game usage among girls jumped from 50 percent in 2006 to 57 percent in 2008, said Ann Hamilton, a senior brand manager with game publisher Ubisoft. The forum for girls has doubled in the past two years, so they're playing even more now.
Everyone is, after peeking at the figures. With more than 3.6 million combined systems sold in November, Wii and Nintendo DS set new hardware sales records, according to the independent NPD Group, which tracks video game sales in the United States. The Wii console sold more than 2 million in November, a new all-time record for a non-December month. And the Nintendo DS system sold more than 1.56 million in November, which is now the second-highest total for a non-December month in history.
In total, the Wii console has sold 15.4 million in the United States since it launched in November 2006, and Nintendo DS has sold nearly 24.6 million in the United States since it launched in November 2004.
"What's driving the Wii sales is the use of Wii by women, girls and families," Hamilton said. "It's a really female-driven platform."
Ubisoft — whose popular titles include "Assassin's Creed," "Brothers in Arms" and "Prince of Persia" — has two lines of video games for girls, Hamilton said — Imagine and Ener-G. The 16 titles from Imagine allow girls to role-play in real-life activities, including fashion, interior design, baby-sitting, even acting.
Ener-G was launched most recently as the first-ever sports line in video games for girls.
"Girls wanted sports games to play, as well," such as gymnastics and horseback riding, Hamilton said. Ubisoft has a cheerleading game coming out in February and a figure-skating game in March, both on Nintendo DS.
These interactive games are great for self-expression and creativity among girls, Hamilton said. Like with Imagine's "Fashion Designer New York," girls can create clothes (from picking necklines and lengths of sleeves to what color the garment will be), as well as accessorize the outfits, choose models to wear them and show their designs in a fashion show.
Such games are great for socialization, too. "Video games kind of have this reputation for being a solo activity," Hamilton said, but 65 percent of children playing them are doing so with others.
Companies doing the best job of reaching this growing market are those that realize girls are a key part of the gaming community, Valiquette said.
"Girls have a very high impact on how we interact with each other. As a human race, we have men and women — and we all communicate together."
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