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ESA head thinks games need new direction

May 19th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

BBC reports that ESA head honcho Doug Lowenstein thinks that games are too focused on the same demographic that they have always focused on – men in their 20s and 30s. The industry needs to do more to broaden its appeal if it wants to move beyond a niche entertainment industry, Lowenstein argues.

I’ll go one better.

The industry is marketed towards men in their mid-teens and early twenties. Games require more attention and more hand-eye skill than ever – so only those with more free time can get the most out of them, and they stick to the old stand-by of blowing things up or kicking ass. Preferably with a half-clothed anime model somewhere nearby.

Think of all the gaming magazine covers or exclusives you have seen in the last year. How many were for shooters?

Why is G4 running a poll on Videogame Vixens? (this is me gagging.)

The thing is, I don’t think the industry has any desire to move beyond its comfortable young male demo. They have perfected marketing to this group, they know what sells and there are few surprises. Let’s face it; when you were 16 you only had one or two things on your mind and I doubt Psychonauts would have scratched that itch.

Casual gamers are usually older, have more idiosyncratic tastes and don’t follow the marketing. If they buy a game it is usually an established franchise or something they learned about through word of mouth. If these people don’t read game magazines or Gamespot, how can you market to them?

If you have a marketing division, you have to give them something to do. And that means finding the ready made audience for ads, bright lights and shiny objects.

The Holy Grail is a way to convert casual gamers into hardcore gamers, i.e., marketable eyeballs. But this is much easier said than done.

The generation going through high schools now (which has zero trouble getting its hands on M rated games, btw) is the industry’s best chance to date at converting women and casual gamers to the seductive power of gaming. But, like Lowenstein, I see little effort to make this shift.

Do they resist because they have no ideas? Because it is hard? Because they like the boy’s club they have set up?

And Lowenstein is saying nothing that is surprising to developers or publishers. Speak to them and they all say they want to broaden the appeal of the hobby. But Lowenstein is preaching to a choir that will say “Amen” but not sing for their supper.


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