Friday, October 06, 2006

Survey: two-thirds of online gamers are female
The third annual release of the Nielsen "Active Gamer Benchmark" study is out, and it contains some surprises. The study looked at so-called "Active Gamers" (those who play video games on a consistent basis) and found that there were currently 117 million such gamers in the United States. While the majority of gamers (70 percent) are male, the balance shifts dramatically when limited to online gamers, which comprised more than half of the total. The study found that nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of online gamers were women. This statistic challenges an earlier study issued by ComScore that had pegged the latter figure at 52 percent.

This percentage is not limited to 3D action games, such as CounterStrike or massively multiplayer online role-playing games like World of Warcraft, but includes all computer and video games that feature an online component. Still, the fact that females outnumber males in any kind of aggregate measure of gaming is a massive shift away from conventional wisdom. The traditional, male-dominated games industry may have to sit up and take notice.

This isn't the first time that the industry has considered the presence of female gamers. In the 1990s, studies showed that more women than expected were playing video games, and a few companies attempted to fill an untapped market by coming out with "girl games" that were deliberately targeted at a female audience. Most of these companies were unsuccessful, and their failure was typically used as an argument against any further targeting of a female demographic, rather than a reflection of the quality of the games themselves.