Video games for chicks
Not all games are shooters, and not all players are geeks. Take Daisy Durham, a 40-year-old community college professor in Houston who likes to play online puzzle games when she's hit with a bout of insomnia.
The self-described snobby intellectual is part of the newly hot demographic target for game companies looking to expand their reach beyond the traditional 18-to-34-year-old male gamer. Reaching this audience, however, requires more than just repackaging superhero games and buying ads in "Cosmo."
One approach, taken by King.com and Electronic Arts' Pogo, is to offer free, snack-size games online and collect advertising revenue. King.com serves up puzzle games to portals such as Yahoo, AOL and MSN. About 65% of its 10 million unique monthly visitors are female, according to the company's estimates.
Microsoft used a different strategy: It hired Christa Phillips, aka TriXie, as a goodwill ambassador for women in the Xbox Live online game service.
Another tack is to sell games that women would want to buy. Game Factory, a privately owned subsidiary of a Danish toy distributor with offices in Santa Monica, is betting that it has the right formula: Take half a dozen addictive puzzle games, add one part ambient music, toss in some soothing graphics, and women will snap it up on their way to the spa. The game, called Zenses, is slated for release in the fall for Nintendo's DS Lite hand-held console.
Zenses has a big pool to draw from. About 28% of the 70 million DS owners worldwide are female, most of them adult women, according to Nintendo. That's close to 20 million potential customers. Will those women dig this style of game play? We'll go out on a limb and say that it will have better odds of appealing to women than, say, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Just a hunch.
-- Alex Pham
Screen shot of Zenses Rainforest courtesy of Game Factory