Nintendo Wii Welcomes Women, Says EA Exec
If there's been one massive new trend in the video game industry in recent months, it's been the attempt to rope in that elusive "casual gamer". No one really knows how to define this individual, although the consensus seems to be that it excludes both Halo 2 fanatics and the foul-mouthed vermin found within the online "tubes" of Xbox Live. Instead, casual gamers seem to be those who stick to sports games and the ubiquitous Sims franchise (what's that, they're making a Sims Grammar Rodeo?).
Now, it appears as though Electronic Arts, or EA (they're The Sims' publisher) are becoming more and more interested in reeling in the casual gamer. In fact, the company is discussing plans to attract the most elusive casual gamers of all: women.
Speaking out about the tactic is a high-ranking EA woman herself, vice president of Europe Online, Sharon Knight. Proclaiming the next step for her company at this year's Women in Games Conference in
So, what's the strategy?
Knight is bang-on when she asserts that the way to bring women into the gaming fold is to avoid cliché stereotype titles meant just for them, such as using a "chick-flick" movie license (or the long-time Barbie slop). Knight refers to these failed attempts as "pink games," only capable of seeing a developer into the red.
Like just about everyone else in the media, Knight points to the Nintendo Wii as the savior of gaming. To her, the little white console "levels the playing field…You don't embarrass yourself – you can grab it and right away start having fun."
Beyond her plug for Nintendo, Knight doesn't offer many other bits of wisdom. As a part of EA, she obviously believes in Will Wright's The Sims, but doesn't offer any ideas on how this concept might grow.
And, that's the problem.
The Sims draws in women for any number of reasons, but the most poignant may be the management skills it demands of a gamer: careful time, finance, and even social supervision.
If console companies want to integrate the casual gamer – be they men or women – then Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony must open up new genres that borrow these concepts. Simply limiting gamers – and women, as a group – to the fleeting excitement of motion-sensitive mini-games is a mistake.