The last few weeks have been met with controversy regarding women in the Game Industry and Game Journalism in general due to how our key marketing demographics have shifted.
While we won’t talk about the controversies, we can explore what has led to the demographics changing so much.
The New Popular Demographic:
Things have certainly changed since the last decade where the perception of the most popular demographic was the 18 and younger male. This was the time where the most popular genres were shooter focused titles like Gears of War, Battlefield and so on.
The 18 and younger demographic was lucrative for many developers and publishers and it tied into game marketing and releases. In a previous post we looked at the popular timing windows for game releases and the two big ones for the AAA market were the pre holiday season of September-November and entering Summer of May-June.
The reasons being that the pre-holiday time was both for games to play during the winter break and to possibility receive as gifts during the holiday. The summer season was for buying games to celebrate the end of the school year and have something to do over the break.
Marketing was meant to be bombastic: With high octane commercials and the stereotypical “bad-ass pose” for the main character on the cover. And while this market is still very popular, the ESA has reported this year that women over 18 are a bigger demographic compared to males 18 and under and 48 percent of the game industry audience are women. And we are now seeing commercials for social games like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga,
While there have always been women playing video games, the change in the popular demographic can be attributed to some of the major shifts in the Industry over the last few years.
The rise of the social and mobile games market are huge for expanding the demographics of the Game Industry. Both mobile and social games feature basic control schemes designed for people not familiar with traditional gamepads. This creates a very low barrier of entry compared to more complicated titles.
Despite the attitude towards social games by hardcore gamers, they have attracted a large following of people and have become a sizable market for designers to go for. So sizable in fact that according to the ESA report for 2014, more people play social games online than those that play MMO or online universe titles.
Another aspect that has led to this change in demographic and increase in mobile and social gamers would have to be how the Game Industry has shifted its pricing structure.
Another barrier of entry for the Game Industry over the years would have to be price. Playing a console or handheld game required you to spend money on a dedicated platform on top of any game purchases. And keeping up with PC upgrades is even more expensive. For the enthusiasts out there, it was a small price to pay but this made it hard to get new people to try video games who were willing to put out the money.
The rise of the F2P market has been instrumental in getting new people to try out games. F2P titles on both the mobile and computer markets can be played without needing to spend money on video game related hardware. Examining the psychological hooks and tactics used to get people to play F2P games is too big for this post, but there have been studies, presentations and conferences on the very subject.
We can talk about what made the social and F2P markets become both very profitable and popular over the last four years. This lead to amazing profits such as King, the makers of Candy Crush Saga earning just over 600 million dollars in the first quarter of 2014.
Ultimately we can sum up this change in demographic and market with one word: Accessibility.
Accessing the Situation:
The video game industry for over 20 years has been a very insular market due to many different factors — High cost of entry, complicated control schemes, and the view by popular culture are the big three.
But over the last generation, we’ve seen how video games have become more accessible to people outside of it. Thanks to control scheme standardization and the changes we’ve talked about in this piece. While the market still has the same fans that it had before, the sheer number of people entering the industry thanks to these changes have dwarfed the previous fan base and this has lead to an increase in profits.
Comparing the ESA report from 2010 to this year the annual sales or profit that the Game Industry made has gone up from 10.5 billion in 2009 to 21.53 billion in 2013. And looking at the differences in gender, in 2010, the number of women who made up the consumer base was 42 percent, compared to this year’s report showing the rise to 48 percent.
The changes in accessibility are definitely a part of this increase in profit and the increased interest of women in video games and it will be interesting to see how these trends will continue to shape both the profits and the consumer base of the industry for the remainder of the decade.