A new Next-Gen Screen Digest piece takes a peek back into console market war history to see how Nintendo seems to have won out in the quest for that most elusive of goals: bringing a broader audience of women and girls into the gaming fold.
In the last console generation, Nintendo's GameCube appeared to lag behind as Sony and Microsoft battled it out for the twenty-to-thirtysomething male demographic - but time has shown that Nintendo's patience in luring a more casual audience has brought in ladies' loyalties, as well, with the cute lil' DS as strategic lynchpin:
Actually, at this time Nintendo, although failing to effectively compete with the adult male-centered home consoles, was already delivering on a strategy to increase kids' spending on games through its handheld devices. While Sony and Microsoft started a front battling for the 'core' gamer, Nintendo maintained a link to its early consoles and new generations of young gamers through its handheld devices.
However, as the article continues, Nintendo can't take all the credit for birthing a new generation of young females interested in games. The boom of gender-neutral or girl-friendly MMOs targeted at young teens and 'tweens means that most young girls are eager to get online and play with virtual pets and dolls:
Since the early 2000s there has been a steady introduction of sites, including Habbo (formerly Habbo Hotel), Neopets and Club Penguin, that cater to young gamers.
While in traditional MMOGs users are predominantly male, in these social-networking-driven communities the male to female ratio is normally pretty equal, or even sometimes weighted towards the girl gamer. All three of these sites have been hugely popular and also financially successful - so much so in the case of Club Penguin that Disney was prompted to splash $350m in cash acquiring the site (with the contingency for a further $350m based on future earnings) to add to its portfolio of kid-targeted online games and sites.
So today's 8-12 year olds see a higher percentage of their female peers involved in some form of PC, console and handheld gaming - but does this mean that a decade from now, those young girls will be beating our hindquarters at traditionally male-focused hardcore gaming? Probably not so much, but it's reasonable to expect that in the years to come, the entire video game industry will be looking at ways to keep this expanded demographic involved as they grow up, to ensure that all these eager Nintendogs-petters and Webkinz-hoarders don't simply leave their game habits behind the way they'll ditch their dolls.
ANALYSIS: Here Come the Girls [Next-Gen]