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Game Entrapment

Category: Andy Marken's blog Published on Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Hard Core Gamers Taking a Back Seat



Figure 1 - Surprise – Hard core gamers have lost their “most sought after” position for video game system and software producers. Without a lot of fanfare the developers/manufacturers have found that there is a huge general and casual gamer market out there…young/old, male/female.


Believe me, I was prepared for everything – except you.” – Mac (Sean Connery), Entrapment (1999), 20th Century-Fox


It came as a rude shock to our son…he was no longer one of the most sought after people on the planet – the hardcore gamer.


It dawned on him after watching his sister and Mom play their Wii musical instruments, exercise with the system and do a little Dancing With the Stars.


While he and his comrades were busy shootin ‘em up, bustin ‘em up; the gaming industry had discovered there was a brave new market existed beyond teens…beyond boys!


We sorta, kinda knew it back at the beginning when worked with the Tramiels to introduce the 7800 console and Lynx.


We just didn’t admit it.


The game industry was in its infancy and only accounted for a few hundred million bucks.


Today the market is huge and serious.


Despite (or perhaps because of) the anemic economy, the gaming industry appears to be hell-bent on fighting the tide again this holiday season with another record year!


In good and bad times the game industry has grown steadily.


Figure 2 - Steady Growth – Since the development of the first video game in the early ‘70s hardware and software have had a steady increase in sales despite the ups and downs of the economy. The only shift has been who’s hot, who’s not. That’s the serious part of the industry. Source -- NPD


Action games like GTA (Grand Theft Auto), Gears of War, Call of Duty and MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) like World of Warcraft get all the media attention and arguably a strong sell-thru.


But with very little fanfare or heated play-by-play discussion, a long list of non-adrenaline/testosterone games have earned a strong customer base.


Have you seen the latest Nintendo DS racing and math challenges of mid-20s folks?


Seen the top iPhone apps downloads?


Normal folks are taking center stage.


There is no longer a stereotypical gamer.


The market has broadened and has become embedded into our daily cultural and social fabric.



  • 65% of American households play computer and video games

  • Video game hardware/software sales were up 28% in July of this year

  • 87% have a video game console

  • The average game player is 35 years old

  • One out of four gamers is over age 50

  • Women age 18 or older represent a significant portion of the game-playing population (40%) than boys 17 or younger (18%)

  • 41% of Americans expect to purchase one or more games this year

  • 94% of parents are present when games are purchased or rented

  • 88% of parents always/sometimes monitor children’s game play

  • Casual games will generate in excess of $2.25 bln this year

  • Video games will generate $48.9 bln by 2011


Game hardware/software/play ecommerce is experiencing record growth even as other categories have lowered their expectations for the holiday and year.

Figure 3 - Online Demand – The sudden shift of finances for most families has impacted retail stores and ecommerce sites. Games and gaming aren’t growing as rapidly as industry experts projected the first of the year but demand continues to remain steady. It’s a great way to get some relief after a tough day at school or the office. Source -- Ipsos


Family interest in game play can be attributed to a number of very real factors:

  • tight family budgets have forces families to spend less – and more carefully – on entertainment such as sporting events, theater tickets, weekend trips opting instead for staycations (stay at home vacations)

  • because of outside stress, families to do what Faith Popcorn calls cocooning - coming home, locking out the world and bonding/sharing

  • new family-oriented, interactive or friendly challenge games that anyone in the family can enjoy such as Wii Play, Music, Fitness

  • Entertainment games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band have encouraged folks of all ages to turn off the TV and have fun no matter how much talent they have


The high visibility games are only the tip of the iceberg. The range of game types has gone well beyond the blow-em-up mayhem to games that are just plain fun that can be as simple or complex as the players want.

Figure 4 - Full Menu – While speed and mayhem games gain most of the editorial attention online and offline, the big volume sales and play seem to come from the less adrenaline drive games…puzzles, sports, strategy. Source – Pew Internet


While World of Warcraft is by far the leading MMOG for men and women, the number of ways people can spend their money and time online has grown steadily. By 2012 Ipsos projects online revenues will exceed $1.5 bln annually.


Game play has grown because let’s face it the graphics are totally sophisticated and realistic.


Now there are games that really appeal to men/women, young/old.


Figure 5 - Cross Segments – While male game players still hold a slight edge over the female gamers the numbers continue to shift. And even though we think of younger kids as the ones who are playing for hours on end research shows that people of all ages enjoy the challenges of the games. Source -- ESA


Video gaming has become so popular that today players under 18 represent only one-quarter of the total audience.


The new wave of systems, games as well as portable unit and smartphone games have hooked parents, seniors, moms/dads, young/old.


According to the hardcorers, games like The Sims were a waste of time, money and effort.


Bummer because the game has sold more than 100M copies.


Spore -- the follow-on?


One million copies in three weeks.


Hardcore gamers may spend more on their hobby.


But there are more casual gamers out there and they’ve helped Nintendo eat Sony’s and Microsoft’s lunch.


We have read accounts of senior executives who travel a lot taking their daughter’s pink DS system to relax on their flights.


That’s getting embedded into day-to-day life.


The video game industry has really tried to be blind to the differences between boys/girls, men/women.


Games in the beginning were sexually neutral.


Pac-Man, Pokemon, Sonic, Tetris, Super Mario and hundreds of other successes and failures were just ways to waste time.


Problem was game reviewers and hardcore gamers were guys.


You know…geeky, teenage, socially awkward dude who spent hours locked in his darkened, musty bedroom.


In addition, the female market (young and old) was more difficult to quantify, tougher to reach, harder to win over.


Still is !


The early feminizing game efforts had pixies thrown in, Barbie traipsing around.


Didn’t build much of a following.


Lots of gals liked Lara Croft.


Our daughter enjoyed playing and kicking the crap out of every guy she came up against.


Mobile games, handheld games, casual game portals, casual MMOGs, online games and social games have finally given women (young and old) options.


And they’ve grabbed ahold!


Wii helped women in general and moms in particular build demand for casual gaming.


Suddenly game developers found that the fundamental difference between male and female gamers.


Females like variety!


They move from sports to music to role playing to shoot-em ups to war games almost seamlessly.


Women are much more comfortable today with technology.


Computers aren’t some geek guys’ plaything.


The fun and fervor of the game seem to be easier for the female to work through because they synapses are somehow just wired better than the male’s.


It’s no wonder that 40+% of the gamers are female and their interest is growing across all age groups.

Figure 6 - Female Challenge – It is often difficult for guys to think of women (young and old) being into the challenges of video games but studies show that females not only like game play but they are also very good. Interest – as with males – covers all age groups.

Source -- comScore


Whether it’s racing, puzzles, rhythm, adventure, strategy, MMOG or virtual world adventures the difference between male and female is seldom more than a few percentage points.


The new games and platforms offer something that appeal to the entire family.

Photo 1

In the Floodlight – console and game developers continually strive to develop just the right mixture of excitement, action and challenge to appeal to game players and keep them coming back. Men and women don’t outgrow video games…it just takes more work to find them. Source – 20th Century Fox


When budgets are tight, it’s great to know there are gifts can be bought, given, used, enjoyed by everyone.


Christmas 2008 wasn’t very rosy in a lot of market sectors and 2009 doesn’t look much brighter.


But at least you can go home this evening to play a game online or offline that blocks out the worries of the world…till tomorrow.


It is a little humiliating though when you play your best and at the end your daughter smirks at you and repeats Gin’s (Catherine Zeta Jones) statement…“oh come on! Askme how I did it.”


They just take all the masculine fun out of the game…

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