In our experience there are many, many huge and sophisticated markets that feel pretty masculine in the way they represent and market their products, despite the massive opportunity women represent to them. Automotive and financial services are examples that spring to mind. With information, advice and training they can flex what they do and say to appeal to the increasingly valuable female customer base.
The gaming market, however, is a real one-off. If the markets mentioned above are in need of a little help, the gaming market is in need of the emergency services.
It doesn’t just accidentally miss the point or make a few ill-judged mis-steps as other markets so often do. From the outside looking in, gaming feels like a market that deliberately wants to alienate women.
There are myriad signals emitted by the gaming market that communicate to women: ‘We don’t understand you’; ‘We don’t care that we don’t understand you’; and, ‘We are not interested in your custom’.
Competition, one-up manship and winning are the prevailing frameworks for gaming – these are classic masculine motivational levers. The prevailing tone of voice is dark and menacing – a real turn-off for the safety-seeking female. The lack of narrative or emotional appeal, the emphasis on machinery not people and the focus on action over feelings all demonstrate that developers and publishers don’t understand or care what innately interests and motivates women.
The only explanation can be that games developers and publishers are blissfully unaware that women are now the biggest audience online.
They must also have missed the well documented fact that women make 83 per cent of household purchases, are likely to own 60 per cent of the UK’s wealth by the year 2020 and that, depending on the latest report you read, they represent 38 per cent of gamers.
We read about games publishers who see the opportunity, but we don’t see brave, original attempts to realise the opportunity. So if we were to take gaming into our A&E department, our advice would be: First, really understand women and what they want.
Forget about tweaking the industry around the edges – rewrite the rules from a feminine perspective.
Second, put your best and most innovative thinkers on the job to deliver what women really want from games (we know it’s hard to deliver character and narrative without turning the game into a damned film).
Third, put pressure on the retailers to do something about the hideousness of their stores. Get them to visit TopShop on Oxford Street. No girl or woman wants to shop in a teenage boy’s bedroom.