Rise of the girl gamers

By Steven Cole on October 30th, 2012

When you think of the average gamer, what pops into your head? Probably an unnaturally aged, somewhat rotund teenager holed up in his parent’s basement in yellowing underwear, junk food and soda cans strewn around him, posters of women who would rather saw their arm off than enter his lair peeling off damp walls.

Sound about right? Well, you’re in for a shock: the average online gamer happens to be a 43-year-old woman. In fact, a PopCap study showed that 55 per cent of all social gamers in the US are women.

Sayonara soap operas

The highest-grossing online casinos are repositioning their advertising toward this new demographic, featuring women in the ads and promising membership of “exclusive” clubs, because more than half the people gambling at internet casino tables are now female.

The number of female gamblers has increased from 6 per cent to 71 per cent with the advent of the internet, according to a comprehensive study in 2010 by the Gambling Commission. That’s right ladies: the stereotypically male-dominated world of gambling is now in your hands.

That said, women tend to flock towards simpler, social media-based games. Perhaps it’s a predisposition for being better at multitasking (tending to Farmville cows while making a casserole), or being drawn into the social layer that sits on top of these cute, reward-heavy game engines.

According to tech blog The Verge: “Zynga’s games boast more than 300 million monthly active users. It claims its players are performing one million in-game activities every second, and more than 55 million people from all around the world play at least one of Zynga’s games every day.

“It has the market capital to rival some of the biggest video game publishers in the industry and flat out dwarf most traditional publishers that have been around for much longer.”

The Holy Grail of Soccer Moms

How women interact with one another yields a clue into this new hormonal hegemony: if you’re familiar with Dunbar’s number (an anthropological conceit that posits human beings can only keep up stable relationships with 150 people at once), recent studies suggest this number could be higher for women, which would explain a natural inclination to be drawn to more social games with dozens of new friends.

Casual gaming and gambling is eating up your average soccer mom’s spare time, partly because it doesn’t eat into time needed for chores and errands, but instead fills in those empty minutes waiting for the kids to come home. Add all those minutes up, though, and you have created a force to be reckoned with.

Groupon, Etsy and Zappos.com are also used mostly by women, as are a surprising number of mobile apps, indicating that it’s not just gaming and gambling but also shopping that is yet to fully realise the increasing dependence of your stereotypical Wisconsin mom on her internet-connected devices.

Building a Mom-pire

If you’re looking to tap into this burgeoning mommy-gamer market, it’s essential to gear every aspect of your approach, interface and marketing toward this new class of mover and shaker. Talk to your design team about making changes that could make your look more appealing to women, leverage their interests and then test with friends, family, or a larger audience if you have the budget for it.

And if you’d like to tap into the female mind, for the love of God have a woman on your executive team. I don’t know how social gaming companies dare to operate without them.