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May 14, 2004

Comments

Phil Gyford

"How many of you have even heard of Alphaville (no, not the 80s band)"

What, you mean the Jean Luc Godard film (I don't think I've heard of the band)? :)

I'm loving your conference reports btw!

Ted Mielczarek

"If the Sims was so popular with women, how come there are only 80,000 Sims subscribers?"

I think they meant The Sims game, not The Sims Online. The Sims has sold millions of copies, presumably many of those to women.

ganzern

As another female pc gamer, who was playing games before I met my husband, I don't know how in the hell you could have sat through that entire session without screaming profanity at the top of your lungs and then jumping up and saying in a sweet lil' voice, "fiddly dee, I just don't know what came over lil' ol' me." BTW, I have never played SIMS, never had the desire too--its a game for those too weak minded to play real games.
Thanks for the report!

Alice

Ted, they didn't mean the Sims game, they meant Sims Online. The Sims has indeed sold in the millions, and I heard 50% of players (ish) were women. Yet Sims Online only has 80K subs. My point was, they haven't marketed Sims Online to ladies even though ladies make up half their normal playerbase.

Bit silly, that.

Emil Ng

I think part of the reason why the Sims Online doesn't have as many subscribers is because people don't want to feel like they HAVE to spend time playing a game. The other reason is if you believe any of the reviews out there is because the game just doesn't add enough to the gameplay of the original game to make it worthwhile for people to pay for a subscription.

Alison Scott

I'm a lifelong gamer who's also a 'time-poor' mum. pick-up-and-put-down games are good. (Popcap games, say). I know lots of other women who play games, and met loads in pick-up-and-put-down online games (I played a multiplayer online Wheel of Fortune clone, Puzzle A Go Go, for a while). These always seem to be full of women.

My local game shops have several serious problems, but the main one seems to be that the staff simply know nothing about gaming outside a very narrow sphere. So they're just not a good place to buy games. It is, for example, impossible to buy a dance mat of any quality from a retail shop in the UK, and when I wanted to get a snowboard controller I found it very difficult. 'But it's not as efficient a way to play the game as a regular controller', they explained. It didn't, as far as I could tell, occur to them that efficiency in hitting high scores wasn't the only thing people were looking for in games.

Dan Kaminsky

(Man, I'm probably going to get my ass kicked for this. Oh well. I got introduced to gaming by my Ms. Pac Man addicted sister, that's gotta count for something.)

You know, I read this blog entry a few days ago when it was first linked on Boingboing, and it stuck in my mind.

Now I know why: Alice, what exactly do you disagree with? I'm serious, you've proferred it as self-evident that something is dreadfully wrong with these four men deigning to discuss selling to women, and yet a rebuttal seems curiously missing.

Suppose, as you say, twenty-five years of marketing history has sent out the message that games are for boys and men. OK. What to do about that? According to you, "Daytime TV ad slots are cheap as chips." Great idea! Except according to Jim, "I'd say you put a segment on, say, Oprah."

You know, Oprah's run during the daytime. Given that one of these guys knows way more about Daytime than both of us combined (that whole "worked in Daytime from 1999-2000" line of Jim's), I suspect he knows ad rates to the dollar for the top thirty ad markets.

The topic of placing XBox CDs on the cover of Cosmo/Vogue came up, and was (rather quickly) shot down. I think we can all agree that first somebody has to buy the XBox before they can make use of something that helps them acquire accessories for it. But I don't think there's any objection to print advertising in the "female media" reflected here -- and certainly there's enough of an untapped market identified here that people are willing to invest quite a bit of time, energy, and money into encouraging the female customer.

The open question, the one as a Quake player that you seem at greatest odds against (but never actually expressed) is that girls should play girly games and boys should play manly games.

You know, there's an argument there. You're a Quake player, and sadly seem a bit defensive about that (and I quote, "I'm a freak"). Your nightmare scenario, if I may be incredibly bold by suggesting, is having girl-pandering crap like Bratz shoved at you like you're supposed to buy it and play it and then go put on some more makeup. Ewww. But you know what? Even these guys, these horrible four guys who deigned talk about female gaming, point out that Bratz is great for the eight year olds, but what happens even when they start becoming a teenager?

They're, rather rightfully, quite disgusted. And don't think guys can't get in on that annoyance; I'm a 25 year old Gameboy Advance player, do you realize how few of the games on this system even approximate playability? For crying out loud, they took Final Fantasy Tactics and recast it into eight year olds having a snowball fight!

Nobody wants to play stupid games. Nobody wants to try to sell you stupid games. The one thing these guys have pointed out is that girls do seem to prefer more social games, and from everything I've seen, that's quite true. Even Quake 3 is a game that, ultimately, was designed to be played as a group experience. Your level of disagreement seems to be limited to the claim that there are many existing games that can be remarketed successfully to a female crowd, that remain not social experiences. You cite as an example SSX3, which your roommate started playing after sitting there, socially, watching you play (I used to do that with my roommate all the time too -- www.ssxfan.com). Ignoring the fact that SSX3 is one of a relatively small set of games that doesn't involve blowing s*** up good, your roomie did seem to get socially introduced to the game, much as predicted.

Regarding your T-Shirt quandry -- you know, there's just not that many women who go to E3, but Dear Friends: Music from Final Fantasy was selling small T-Shirts. I know this, because they were the only shirts left by the time I wound my way through the line to buy myself a Manly Dear Friends shirt :-)

Incidentally, lots of "time-poor" people on both sides of the gender fence. Do you know how many people I know are explicitly terrified of MMO's because of people they know who, say, had to drop out of school because of them? Yeah.

Dan Kaminsky

Alice,

If The Sims Online has 80,000 subscribers, it's because the game itself is terrible, or at least not worth a monthly subscription fee to millions of people. There's alot of failed conversions to go around.

Alice

Heh, where to start!
I'll just dive in. I have no problem with the guys talking about selling to women. I have no problem - actually - with games designed specifically for women, any more than I do books and films. Each to their own taste.

What I *do* have a problem with is the lack of balls - pardon the pun - in the business management. The games industry is the only media industry up there (music, film, television, print) it seems that has a mainly one-gender audience. Why is that? As businessmen, as all four chaps were, they should be bending over backwards to make their product more appealing to a broader customer base, as clearly if they were to, they would sell more.

But, y'know, the industry is a little male, a little geeky, a little shy, and it has trouble talking to women and asking them what they want. It's a shame and a pity, because as a player (and I apologise, the freak comment is my Britishness, I am by no means ever apologetic or self-denigrating about my games passion...) I'd like to see games appreciated by more people, and the creative range broadened for the benefit of all of us. There are four football games in the top ten at the moment, it's just a little too bloody same-y.

So there you go. These guys will get there, faster if they experiment. But they have to have guts to do that.

WRT the Sims Online being a bad game (haven't played it yet), I've heard a few people say this. Still, as far as I know, it's not like the game had large subscriber uptake and then downtake (as you would if it were broadly marketed but then rubbished). It seems that it just didn't get many at all, and all I know is, from my experience, I never saw it advertised, so I can't help but suspect that this had something to do with it.

Either way, investigating that game's sales history is on my to-do list, so if I find out more, I'll post more....

A.

Dan Kaminsky

Alice,

At what point in that entire discussion you so excellently blogged did you not get the point that they were, to use your words, "bending over backwards to make their product more appealing to a broader customer base, as clearly if they were to, they would sell more?"

It doesn't seem that any of these four chaps were arguing that, say, women ought to be ignored, that they're making just enough money as is, and that gaming was clearly not something that women had any interest in. I know people who might make that argument, but anyone watching the money notices that women aren't exactly broke (notice the primary gender catered to at malls) and are buying certain games hand over fist, totally altering the charts. Indeed -- here I saw people who actually understood the markets they were in. They understood that the female gaming set had both a "hardcore" contingent and the Proctor and Gamble set (which is totally true). They even volunteered such previously unknown factoids such as the heavy female programmership of the massively successful Sims series.

It goes on. Gerhard says, "The joypad is a hurdle for most people." Alison replies by pointing out her difficulties getting a snowboard controller -- sounds like Gerhard had a point. Now, if you want to talk about the creativity issues in the gaming industry as a whole -- I think this is a rather gender neutral argument, and there's been quite a bit of soul searching on this very discussion. How precisely is sexualizing the topic helpful?

Regarding the Sims Online, social games expand socially, i.e. early adopters advocate the game to their friends, who advocate to their friends, etc. No advocation, no drop off -- the customers just don't show up in the first place. Again, neither gender has particularly adopted the game in force. Advertising could change that, I suppose, but I didn't exactly see these guys say that such marketing was to be ruled out.

So here's the bottom line, Alice. You certainly seem to be an intelligent and interesting girl -- and you're a very good writer, well, when you're not calling an entire industry shy, geeky, and antisocial. Surely you can identify something you disagree with, something "unbelievably stupid" or "painful", besides (well) the Y chromosomes on stage?

Something? Anything?

Alice

Hmm.
- Alison's point was she couldn't *find* the snowboard controller, not that she had problems using it.
- I don't think the industry is marketing to women properly, and in some areas not at all. I find it curious.
- I referred to creative range in tandem with the football game comment. Clearly there's not a massively creative range, and the majority of games are shooting/sport games. There's therefore room for expansion.
- WRT marketing the Sims: you're right, they haven't ruled it out. But it's getting late in the day now.
- I'm happy to stand by my comment that the industry is a little shy, a little geeky. Ask anyone in it, they'll usually say something similar; it's not the first time that people will have heard 'by men, for men', and the industry folk are the first to admit that that's been the history.
- I have never mentioned 'antisocial'. I've never mentioned 'unbelievably stupid'.

You seem to be looking for me to disagree with something, and I'm not sure why. My notes were for people who weren't there to get a taste of what went on; I'm sure there's a recording out there somewhere. I have my opinions on games and marketing, and I made some suggestions - with the fond hope that they would ultimately be helpful.
Hope that clears it up!

A.

Dan Kaminsky

Alice--

Thank you for your prompt response -- I do hope I have not come off too harshly. My concern really focuses on your subject line: Painful. I guess I simply don't see why that was necessary. It seems to me that the end result was to hold four guys up for public pillory, while simultaneously not objecting to anything they've said.

Your message has been read in an astonishingly negative light -- people are referring to what those guys said as "unbelievably stupid" based entirely on ideas you agree with. I can't imagine it'd be too much to ask that you correct those who misunderstood your contribution to a worthwhile cause -- more female gamers :-)

Alice

Painful describes the session, and it was *very painful* from where I was sitting, so very necessary.

If - on reading it - you can't see painful elements in the transcript, but others do and refer to it as 'unbelievably stupid', well - there's not much I can do about that. Sorry!

Dan Kaminsky

Alice--

Still trying to give you the benefit of the doubt...what exactly was *very painful*?

Tiffany

it seems that the trick in drawing non-gamers into gaming is to make more titles that are easy to pick up, but hard to master. games like nba live are just too complicated to learn, IMO, unless you're already a hard core gamer. (but then, what do i know? i'm not much of a gamer.)

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