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PC gamer, WorthPlaying EIC, globe-trotting couch potato, patriot, '80s headbanger, movie watcher, music lover, foodie and man in black -- squirrel!


A Whole New Audience For Video Games Is Emerging

by Rainier on April 8, 2002 @ 3:10 p.m. PDT

Ask someone to describe a typical computer games enthusiast and many will paint a picture of kids in the back of a car playing with a GameBoy or teenage boys in their bedroom on their PlayStation. Few will think of the "twenty- and thirty-somethings" that actually make up the largest game-playing group. (I just think its a natural process of the "first" REAL gaming generation simply getting older .. nothing "new" ed.)
According to the annual market report from The European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) the age group amongst whom game playing is most popular is the 25-34 year olds. A survey of readers by PC Zone magazine backed this up, identifying the profile of the "hardcore PC gamer" as typically in the social group ABC1, aged 27, male (99 percent) 30 percent have children and their average annual income is just short of £20,000. There is a growing market for 18 rated games to appeal to the ever-expanding market of adults who refuse to hang up their games controllers just because they've reached a certain age.

At the same time, there is an avid army of tiny tots and school age children who love playing video games particularly those featuring their favourite TV or movie characters - the success of Disney and BBC Multimedia titles are testament to that. And at the other end of the scale, it is interesting to note that Active Life, a magazine for the over 50s reports that its computer promotions now attract as many responses as its travel promotions. There's a wide and varied array of leisure software titles to satisfy this age group with gardening, languages and other hobby-related products being particularly popular.

But what about the "GameGirls"? Why hasn't the "Bridget Jones" generation seized the joy-stick with the same enthusiasm as their boy friends, husbands and sons? The answer is that traditionally the vast majority of games have been developed by men producing testosterone-fuelled fantasies of fighting, soccer and driving fast cars. All that is changing. Whilst there is still a market for these games - Grand Theft Auto 3 was one of the best selling games of 2001- there are also more women working in games development and an increasing trend for products aimed at the whole family, girls and women in particular.

One of the sure-fire hits this year will undoubtedly be Britney's Dance Beat, due out for PS2 this spring. The game requires players to "audition" to join Britney's backing dancers on tour by matching the on-screen moves of her dancers. It should have Britney fans young and old leaping around their living rooms very soon. Dancing games such as this are proving extremely popular with young (and not so young) disco divas. Also appealing to fans of 'boy-bands' is 'Westlife Fan-O-Mania' by TDK Mediactive containing quizzes and new video footage.

Other games that are breaking down the barriers include simulation games such as the popular Sims series. Here the player creates virtual communities and is responsible for ensuring the health and happiness of the people who live there. According to the publisher, Electronic Arts, in the Sims, players can "make friends, have conversations, insult neighbours, fall in love and have children" - just like real life in fact. And the format is proving hugely successful. Since the launch of the first Sims game in May 2000, 2.6 million copies have been sold in North America alone. Fans are already looking forward to the next expansion to the Sims story with the launch of The Sims Vacation this Spring.

The Sims was one of the nine games that received ELSPA's Platinum award last year for sales of over 300,000 units. One of the other ELSPA Platinum games of 2001 was Who Wants to be a Millionaire, based on the popular TV quiz show. This and other TV influenced quiz games, such as The Weakest Link, have opened up the fun of gaming to all the family and encourage families to play together in much the same way as traditional parlour games did in the pre-television era.

This year will also see further rapid growth in the online and wireless gaming sectors and these platforms are expected to draw in more women and "non-core gamers". Already, according to ELSPA's annual report, the games available via Sky Digital's set-top boxes attract a playing audience that is 44 percent female.

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