May 19, 2005 11:31 AM PDT

Can games grow beyond the hard-core set?

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need to do more to help game developers and publishers, he said.

"They have given us the technology but not the market," Gibeau said. "They must put those boxes in the hands of women and older adults."

But he acknowledged that penetrating those underserved markets won't happen overnight.

"We expect there to be an explosion in the continued convergence of music, movies and games."
--Philip O'Neil
North American for
Vivendi Universal Games

"If you look at boys and girls today, many of them are avid gamers," Gibeau said. "And our research has shown that people do not let go once it is in their blood."

Still, the number of U.S. households with game consoles has remained stagnant--in the 40- to 45-percent range for the last few years, according to research company IDC.

From a financial standpoint, market growth matters now more than ever.

With the new consoles, game development costs will significantly increase, analysts, developers and console makers believe. To alleviate that burden, the industry needs to increase the size of its audience and services around the game consoles.

Online multiplayer games, such as "EverQuest," are another segment many have been waiting to see take off. These games require players to pay a monthly subscription fee, as well as buy the game itself, potentially extending the profit-making life of a title substantially.

Nick Yee, a doctoral student at Stanford University, has spent more than three years studying demographic and behavioral trends in "EverQuest" and other massively multiplayer online games.

Over the past three years, he's seen little fluctuation: The female population of massively multiplayer online games has stayed steadily between about 12 percent and 16 percent of total players, he said. Average age has consistently been about 26 or 27 years old. Players have averaged between 20 and 23 hours of playing a week.

"On the gender ratio, science-fiction-themed games have fewer women than medieval-themed games, which do a little better," Yee said.

Leveraging other popular entertainment markets represents another strategy for pushing games into the mainstream. Historically, movie studios in particular have invested in and worked with game developers. More recently, there has been even more of a concerted effort to work together and share in the revenue.

"We expect there to be an explosion in the continued convergence of music, movies and games," said Philip O'Neil, Vivendi Universal's chief operating officer and president for North America.

Vivendi has previously based games on mainstream movies, such as "Hulk," and plans to do so in the future, with "Scarface," as part of an effort to reach the mass market.

The company will also use recording artists, such as 50 Cent, to drive game sales.

Despite these challenges, the market remains on a roll.

"Twenty-eight billion in global revenue isn't too shabby for a 30-year-old industry," Lowenstein said, "and the outlook for continued growth is extremely rosy."

John Borland reported from San Francisco and Richard Shim reported from Los Angeles.

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women gamers
maybe the console makers could incorporate a recipe swapping app for the women. or they could go the cosmo way and draw them in by delivering eNewsletters concerning "How to spice it up in the bedroom" or "What Oprah said today"...chicks dig things like that.
Posted by (34 comments )
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The 50-plus and gaming - personal observations

I have observed a 50-plus male friend with the way he views computer-based games. He had a liking for the online version of Scrabble and liked to play it with a close friend of his online. OTOH, he doesn't seem to be interested in most, if not all, console games. We knew that he was into cricket (an outdoor "bat and ball" game that is easily understood in Britain, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Carribean and Australasia). What happened was that a 20-something-year-old boy brought in his Playstation. The console's owner rented a cricket game for this console and had played it. He also demonstrated the game to the 50-plus person and offered the controller to him to play the game. I had noticed that he didn't show interest in the game and found the interface for the game a bit hard for him -- which button selects which player, using the controller to set up the players' game parameters, getting the bowler to start bowling and getting the batsman to hit the ball.

One thing that game and console designers need to look at in order to court the older player is to have some form of game-specific labelling for the buttons on the controller. This could be achieved by a "crib sheet" that slides on to the controller to a display near the button groups.

With regards,

Simon Mackay
Posted by SimonMackay (28 comments )
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