Women Love Social Games. Now What?

03/23/2010
Courtesy of Flickr's Marooned

Courtesy of Flickr’s Marooned

If you follow our blog, then you know that we’ve been working hard to bring you what we hope is an insightful and entertaining series about our casual games business. Our last few posts have discussed understanding micro-transactions and how game design can create an environment that motivates a player to purchase virtual goods. As you’ll see in future posts, many of these transactions (as much as 60%, by some accounts) are what we like to call “non-cash transactions”, where the player doesn’t directly pay money to the game developer, but performs some task for which the developer indirectly gets paid… but more about that later.

For now, I wanted to reflect on a few articles that I’ve come across about who is actually playing these games. Which demographic should we target when designing social games? According to the latest surveys, it’s middle-aged women (the average social gamer is a 43-year old woman) and not men that come out as top players of social games. So, here’s the question: What does this demographic reality mean from a game design and business model perspective?

According to Popcap Games who did the study, not only do more women than men play social games, but women also spend more time (half an hour to three hours) playing social games than men do. Also, women are more likely to play social games with their real-world friends than men are. When the social gamers were surveyed, more than 80% of  said that they thought social games helped strengthen their relationship with friends, family and colleagues. Why is this important? If you’ve been following our blogs then you know that we believe that evolutionary psychology drives most of our behaviors in gameplay. If we can build games around more meaningful social interactions for our players, especially games designed to appeal more to women in particular, then perhaps we can more fully engage this valuable game player, and attract more of her game-playing dollar (or dollar-generating activity, in the form of non-cash transactions).

Speaking of micro-transactions, the same study showed that the majority of these women will continue to play social games, as long as they don’t have to pay cash to do it. Out of 700 women that were surveyed, 77% of them said that they would give up their games if the games went from a “free-to-play” game to a subscription model. Once again, for game designers and businesses, if we know that players will complete non-cash micro-transactions, then we can better design games to engage players in this process. What are your thoughts about this topic? As always, you can leave a comment or contact us.