Women dominate PC gaming

Actually, that’s something we’ve known for a long time. In the US, UK, and Australia, women 25 years and older are more likely to play a game at the PC than men in the same age-group. It’s a statistic that’s frequently discarded by games publishers, because teens and tweens are easier to market to, even though they’re not actually that sizeable a gaming demographic. That’s confirmed every year by surveys and research.

In a bit of a round-table discussion, one commentator wondered about the people being surveyed, asking, “Who are these people?”

One of my co-workers said, “Nobody you know.”

Another amended, “Nobody you’ve asked.”

And quite often it’s games you haven’t thought of. Freecell and Minesweeper aren’t maybe what you might think of as games, but games they are, absolutely. They get a fair bit of time, nonetheless. Indeed, card-games top the PC games list for Q4 2008.

Nielsen tracks gameplay for 1,777 games in 185,000 USA households, and relies on a system of electronic recording rather than simply assuming that people are going to remember and honestly report data.

The Q4 2008 report can be found here, if you’re interested. There’s a lot more data, and it is pleasantly compact, at only 9 pages including the cover.

At the end of the day, though, the most effective route to an adult’s bank account is through a tween or teen. Adults tend to respond more strongly to quality and tend to be more price-sensitive in their gaming purchases, and that tends to earn them the brush-off from games publishers more often than not.

10 thoughts on “Women dominate PC gaming”

  1. On a related note, I saw that Amazon in the States is now offering games for downloading. These are smaller, more casual games like Diner Dash, Emerald City Confidential, or Jewel Quest. Most of these have woman characters like Flo from Diner Dash.

  2. They’re also offering Virtual Families, a Sims-like game.

    That one’s obviously targeted at the teen male demographic. *giggle*

  3. While I don’t consider Second Life as a game, it occured to me that it is a very feminime world, and the more seasoned the residents are, the less males there are. I attribute this to the very important aspect of social interaction within SL, something men have a tendency to avoid. And the lack of goal driven activities (something men seem to favour).

    Another thing is that – from my experience – a very large group of SL content creators are recruited from the group of… for the lack of a less disrespectful word…. “housewives”. Women who don’t have or need to do a daytime job (other than “just” looking after the household and the kids), often coming from creative professions or having creative talents. My own business partner and the designer for our furniture brand GREENE concept belongs to that group: having worked in graphic design before, now staying at home looking after the two pre-teen daughters while husband works in a fulltime job, she has time to design SL-furniture when her chores are done and the children are in school.

  4. “Women who don’t have or need to do a daytime job…”

    Or want something more rewarding than checking at WalMart.

  5. Uh, they don’t actually, they are just playing the apps built into the computer for a short period of time, and that influences the study because so many people do it. That’s a huge stretch to say they “dominate” pc gaming, and looking at the report, it looks like that huge number is based on two things:

    1. 1.5million more instances of playing Solitaire for women than men (keep in mind minutes aren’t tracked in this, just the amount of times they played)

    2. 1 million more instances playing freecell.

    Go down the list, and it starts to be a more balanced picture. It’s a 60/40 split on WoW, and roughly equal in terms of casual games, with less men playing half-life (but I’d wager for more time) than women playing jewel quest.

    So it’s a stretch to say they dominate PC gaming, women according to nielsen tend to fire up casual games more frequently than men do overall, and for both genders, the most popular games played are the ones they shipped with the machine. It’s actually harmful research, because it would be better to ignore solitaire, freecell, pinball, and hearts to focus on lower-tier games to get a real picture of what is played.

    1. That’s still PC gaming. Being willing to sit and play a game at all, whether on a computer or off of it is an important thing. That someone is willing to sit and play a game at all is one of the steepest pyscho-social barriers. I think what you’re suggesting is that the stuff lower down the chart is a real picture of what is being played that is available on the market. This is a demographic that, unfortunately, the industry has generally tried to avoid making games for. One that exists despite support, rather than because of it.

      Imagine if publishers could be bothered trying to find games that would be appreciated and acceptable to that demo, rather than … well, did you know that some games publishers excise all women over 18 from their research data before demographic results are presented internally? As a demographic they’re literally shunned.

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