Online gaming has become today the domain of older women who turn to gaming websites because it ‘helps relieve stress’ and ‘does not require a lot of thinking,’ according to a study published by afr.com.
“The mass market for online gaming, like it or not, today is among older women with children playing casual games,” said Matthew Bromberg, general manager of the games division of Time Warner’s America Online. “It certainly runs counter to how the video game industry thinks about itself.”
One-third of Yahoo’s game players are women aged 35 and over. Electronic Arts’ Pogo.com website has 14 million players a month, 55 percent of them women.
At AOL, online games are the biggest activity after email and instant messaging, logging 10 million players a month. DFC Intelligence, a San Diego market research firm, forecasts there will be more than 100 million casual gamers world-wide by the end of the year. That’s in contrast to its prediction of about 5 million players of the higher-tech online games.
Women prefer so-called casual online games, a low-tech genre whose simplicity is far from the ultra-realistic, multiplayer action and sports games often thought to be the core of the online video game market. But the growing popularity of more basic fare – and its appeal to women over 35 – is attracting notice in an industry largely tuned to 18- to 35-year-old males.
The most popular titles are variations on simple classics – card games such as poker and bingo – and represent a new zone for relaxing and socialising. Many offer small cash prizes.
For game makers, the economics of casual games are most compelling. While cutting-edge video games can take years and millions of dollars to produce, casual games – which lack the realistic graphics, epic battles and strategic team play common to big-budget console titles – are designed by a few people, often for $100,000 or less. With costs so low, the games are typically offered free to players, and most game sites make their profits by selling advertising.
Gamers usually must log in and provide basic information about themselves. For advertisers, this creates an easy way to track their exposure to a desirable demographic. According to the Jupiter Media research unit, the most intensive casual gamers have annual household incomes between $45,000 ($62,400) and $75,000, or well above the U.S. household median of $42,000.
Makers of the more high-end console video games say they’re watching casual games’ success carefully. Andrew House, executive vice-president of Sony’s US games unit, said the community aspect of casual games was something the online console services could learn from. Microsoft recently unveiled new offerings for its Xbox Live gaming service targeted at casual gamers, including puzzle