Young female market "neglected" by the games industry

New studio Tsumanga counts Dave Jones as non-exec director; inks deal for Winx Club virtual world

New Scottish studio Tsumanga believes the traditional games business has almost completely ignored a young female audience, leaving money on the table and focusing on an increasingly niche market.

Tsumanga Studios was founded by Graeme Harvey and Elias Moubayed, and boasts Grand Theft Auto, Crackdown and APB creator Dave Jones as non-executive director. The company has just signed a deal with TV and movie production company Rainbow to create a virtual world based on Winx Club, the popular animated series now in its fifth season.

"Despite evidence that outside the console market, the vast majority of gamers are female and over the age of 35, the types of product hitting the market continue to focus on this increasingly niche audience"

"It's a market which is neglected by almost everyone in the games industry," Harvey told GamesIndustry International.

"Thanks to the explosive growth in new platforms such as smartphones, tablets and browser-based games, it's a lot easier to hit these different audiences and create new experiences for the sort of players who have been almost entirely ignored by the mainstream games sector."

Winx Club is not only a successful cartoon, but has been spun off to include film, DVD, toys, clothing, books and video games - supported by a loyal female fanbase.

"Younger female players are very social and communicative, if they enjoy something - a toy, a brand or a game, then they'll tell their friends and they'll put a lot of time and effort into their activity. You've only got to look at the success of Winx Club to date, with the cartoons, toys, merchandise and experiences like the theme park to see that this is an audience which is craving new experiences."

Harvey argues that a narrow focus by the console games business has meant many games companies have missed out on huge potential, alienating an audience craving interactive entertainment.

"The games industry has been mainly focused on the teenage boy demographic for decades now.

"Despite evidence that outside the console market, the vast majority of gamers are female and over the age of 35, the types of product hitting the market continue to focus on this increasingly niche audience. It leaves huge gaps in the overall global audience and means that for any player who doesn't appreciate or want the usual genres of game, there's very little out there."

The Winx Club virtual world is aimed at 7-10 year-olds, will launch in 4 different languages initially and also include offline elements. The free-to-play service will feature a subscription for premium content when it goes live on mobile phones, tablets and browsers.

For Harvey the project is about finding a new audience and providing tailored content, rather than creating products to pre-determined expectations in a stagnating market.

"We've been working with some experts - psychologists, sociologists and so forth, to make sure we understand exactly what the younger female audience is after," he said.

"Collaboration, creativity, communication, socialising are all very important elements to the sort of female players we're looking at. A lot of which is a million miles from the more competitive and destructive aspects of the current console market.

"2013 is going to be milestone for this as markets get more saturated and developers realise they're going to have to follow the audiences which are out there. That's going to be an invaluable lesson for the industry as a whole and will prove a significant step forward for us all in the long term."

Latest comments (14)

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus6 years ago
"We think girls are neglected in gaming... so we're going to make banal garbage for "tweens" that is easily disposable. It's not like companies haven't been doing this since the NES era!"
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I wish that wasn't the standard assumption when it came to games aimed at girls or younger gamers.

I'd love to make games for girls that were actually fun and engaging rather than shallow, ugly and boring.
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Sergio Rosa "Somewhat-Creative Director", Domaginarium6 years ago
@Jessica: as someone who knows too little about development to actually call himself a developer, I'd dare to say you can, considering how many game creation tools you can find out there. Those tools are pretty much the main reason why I was able to make games (and gameplay-wise, they are very simple actually).
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Show all comments (14)
Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
Games aimed at the female market? Meh.

Games that appeal to the female market because they have an interesting concept, characters, story, emotion, and aren't hideously obtuse in UI design? That would be better.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 14th January 2013 11:36pm

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Paul Jace Merchandiser 6 years ago
Can someone give me a few examples of the types of games they think would appeal to this young female market/demographic? Because I'm pretty sure they aren't talking about those Imagine(baby, wedding, ex.) or Barbie games. A lot of younger women I know(mid to late teens) like a majority of what most typical gamers enjoy(Call Of Duty, Assassins Creed, WOW) so I'm curious to what type of games they are referring to that would target this market.
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@Paul Jace:
infact, imagine something like "Fairies Modern Warfare".... :D
Most of all, let's see if they will throw the right amount of money at this thing... considering Rainbow already got a "games" studio in Singapore: - that doesn't look very "active" at the moment.
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zico mahilary Game designer, ZED worldwide6 years ago
ever heard about 'farmville' on facebook .... or casual games like 'wheres my water' for touchscreen devices.... or kinect animals for xbox? those are supposed to be for little girls u know.... you're welcome
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IMO Zynga games aren't aimed at children, because children don't have credit cards.

I just want to make an awesome My Little Pony game that isn't another boring city-builder minigame hub. Or a Monster High RPG. Or rather, like Morville said, a game that attracts girls just because it's good.

When I was a little girl I devoted most of my waking hours(and a good deal of dreaming time) to the Creatures series, which I later realised did a great job of appealing to just about everybody regardless of gender or age.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 6 years ago
Gaming over the last couple of years has had the biggest increase in participant demographics in its history. We are now ubiquitous. Angry Birds has had over one billion downloads. The best audience to target is females over 30. The Mumsnet/Pinterest crowd.
So as an industry we should be as inclusive as possible.

I know a few young females who are avid game players. Their preference seems to be for games with a high social content. Runescape and Guild Wars, for instance. Not being -ist, just a practical, real world observation.

It would be interesting to see the demographics also for Habbo.
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@ Zico: Zynga's FB games are all aimed at 13+ (as per FB min age stipulation) and its core demographic for its Ville series are widely known to be females over 30. They may have cartoon graphics and simplistic gameplay but they are not games that are popular with or aimed at kids.
@ Paul: There are lots of examples of games currently popular with Tsumanga's target demographic: Moshi Monsters, Club Penguin, MiniMonos, Wizard 101, Bin Weevils to name a few. In fact there are well over 100 virtual worlds or MMOGs aimed at kids, most with fairly even gender balances.
@ Bruce: Sulake have disclosed their demographics on numerous occasions; their core is 13-16 with a minor male weighting.
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Emily Knox Associate Designer, CCP Games6 years ago
I sunk a lot of time into Creatures too Jessica (Creatures Gold I think?) The series above all that me and my sister always fought over to play was Age of Empires (and Toca Touring Cars, Tekken, V-Rally, Crash Bandicoot, WSPC, Gauntlet Legends... nothing at all I could associate with being obnoxiously "female friendly", but certainly racing games which feel gender neutral.) Incidentally in a History of Games module at university I was told that Age of Empires was one of the first games known to have a larger female player base than male, but I've got to find a way to back this up. If it's true I find it absolutely fascinating - there's nothing generic or pandering about AoE towards either gender, it's simply a fantastic strategy game that lightly taught us some history without us really knowing. Creating maps and campaigns was another feature we were completely obsessed with. Being gender neutral opens the doors so much wider.

I must admit I do lament toy stores "pink" aisle for dolls and ponies, and the "blue" aisle with water pistols, dinosaurs and cars, because all our lives boys and girls are pigeonholed into going one way or the other. The gender division starts at an early age and continues to be re-enforced with fashion, boys and girls being separated for different sports and subjects at school, different uniforms, and an impossible number of other aspects. There are enjoyable and frustrating differences that come about with gender divides and stereotypes. I suppose what I'm trying to say is, is this what girls really like, or is this what girls have been primed to like?

This is probably what frustrates me most about drives to get more female developers, (and more women into science if anyone saw that laughable initiative combining make-up and stilletos with lab coats and safety goggles), you need to dive into people's lives and interests many years before they are applying for work, and you don't have to make that dive overtly masculine or feminine to grab someone.

With the Winx Club faries, I like the idea of girls wielding magic, progressing with new fairy transformations and fighting their arch nemesis, but it's all generically, glittery pink-packaged, and I'm not convinced that this is the presentation that two X chromosomes desperately require.
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FWIW my sister and I also played Age of Empires for quite a long while. I'd never heard about the female-majority playerbase but that does sound fascinating. We had good fun making our own maps and discovering ways to break the game thereby, but when we played the campaign or in multiplayer games with friends(or our dad) we often played as a co-op pair - she, being much better at military strategy but bored by economic concerns handled the warmaking, and I stayed back at base building farms and coordinating resource collecting.

Emily, your post is totally spot-on! I've long held that the problem of the lack of women in our industry starts long, long before hiring practises make any difference, and one of the root causes may be the incredibly stricly-gendered nature of marketing for children's toys. I'm glad that my parents never bought into the glittery pink crap brigade.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jessica Hyland on 15th January 2013 1:56pm

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Andrew Clayton QA Weapons Tester, Electronic Arts6 years ago
My wife plays Gears, Borderlands, etc. (I think mostly because I ask her to), but she loves games like Dragon Age, Baldur's Gate, and Mass Effect. Games that allow players to choose their gender and that have a deep, emotional story appeal well to both genders. Less like Tinkerbell, more like Skyrim.
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Ashlyn Sparrow Game Designer & LEarning Design Specialist, University of Chicago6 years ago
I would like to classify myself as one of those hardcore female gamers that playing games targeted towards men. I definitely enjoy them more than, @Emily Knox has accurately stated, generically glittery pink-packaged games. Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, Left 4 Dead, give me a game and I will play it! I also hope to enter the game industry as a game designer (oooooh unheard of >_> )

I really do think gender roles have everything to do with girls not going into gaming. Girls are suppose to like Barbies, suppose to like taking care of babies and suppose to be princesses. However, looking back at my childhood, my parents never enforced any of this! In fact, my dad is the reason I even went into a technical field! Ever since I was five, I was building computers with him, programming VCRs, setting up modems (my god!) and any other technology that entered the house. Never did he say, I couldn't mess with technology because I was a girl. He encouraged it and voila, I majored in Information Technology when I went to college.

My mother on the other hand never allowed me (or my sister) to think it was okay to be helpless. We always had to have a plan of action because waiting for some imaginary Prince Charming was not an option (>_<). We constantly watch Xena: Warrior Princess together. She was a woman of action!

So it definitely starts at home but it doesn't help when the media keeps bashing what you are suppose to like in your face.
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