Women Get in the Game

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 8, 2004 — There is a change in the air around competitive gaming new, softer faces are starting to appear and the testosterone level is becoming tempered with a little estrogen. Competitive gaming, once dominated by males, is seeing more and more women stepping into the championship arena. In Las Vegas on January 8-11, male and female gamers from around the world will converge at what organizers call the worlds largest computer-games tournament, the ATI/AMD Cyber X Games: Windows XP Championships.

Game developer Stevie Case

This year, Microsoft Windows XP joined as a title sponsor of the Cyber X Games to support competitive gaming on the Windows platform and increase female gamer opportunities at the championships. Women will take part in the regular gaming tournaments, and can also enter the first ever Windows XP Female Pro Gaming Quake 3 Competition and the Windows XP Female Counter-Strike Team Event. Microsofts sponsorship contribution led to the creation of these new categories for female gamers, which should help elevate the status of women gamers, and provide deserved recognition. US$20,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to the top female gamer and female gaming team the largest amount ever up for grabs.

“While Microsoft is excited about the many innovative game competitions that are flourishing on Windows XP, we also recognize that female gamers are a growing segment of the gaming market, said Susan Kittleson, Windows Gaming product manager.”
By signing on as a title sponsor, were showing our support for the growing number of women gaming on Windows — and the substantial prizes for these new categories should help bring more contestants to Las Vegas.

According to a recent poll by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), women 18 years and older make up over a quarter (26 percent) of the overall gaming population a bigger piece of the pie than boys aged 6 to 17, who represent 21 percent of all computer and video gamers.Looking specifically at gamers on the Windows platform, women make up 41.9 percent of the total audience, showing that Windows is a favorite platform for women gamers.

Competitive gaming events such as the Cyber X Games are flourishing and increasing numbers of women are playing at these venues. At the Cyber X Games in Las Vegas, there are over a hundred female gamers participating in the qualifying rounds. One of the first sponsored women professional gamers, Stevie Case, notes that when she was first getting serious about gaming, female gamers were seen as a novelty and the attitude was very much that gamers were male, ages 15 to 25.
“Things have changed so much over the past few years as more and more women have started using the Internet as a part of their daily activities, says Case.Gaming has become a more mainstream form of entertainment, and this more accepting public view has drawn more women into play.”

In addition to the growing numbers of competitive gamers, the rest of the market continues to expand as well. In 2002, $6.9 billion was spent on computer and video games in the United States – up 8 percent from 2001, and sales numbers for 2003 are expected to have been even higher. Today, 60 percent of Americans are gaming thats about 145 million people. Of that, nearly half of the interactive game players are women. Windows games with a wide cross-gender appeal, such as The Sims, have continuously ranked in the in the top-selling computer games of 2002, according to The NPD Group.

Electronic Arts, publisher of The Sims, says that the interactive life simulation title is especially appealing to women, who make up 56 percent of Sims players compared to 43 percent women players for all games combined. The Sims, the best-selling computer game of all time, according to its publisher, allows gamers to build neighborhoods by customizing characters, molding their personalities, skills, appearances and careers. Through simulated conversations, relationships, and other interaction, gamers control the destiny of their characters lives. In an interview on the website GameGal.com, The Sims Bustin Out producer Virginia McArthur said, The Sims continues to appeal to girls/women gamers, because it has a bit of real life thrown in that makes it easy to pick up the fantasy and then role-play what you might not do in real life.

One title from Microsoft Game Studios that is particularly accessible to women gamers is Zoo Tycoon, thanks in part to the familiar setting of the game. While the game features an easy-to-use interface, the strategy it takes to build the healthiest and vibrant zoo possible is challenging.

In an October 2003 Wall Street Journal article headlined Where the Girls Are, the newspaper noted that more and more dollars are being spent to target the female gamer with marketing pitches, advertising, online services and software. Microsoft, together with the rest of the gaming industry, is recognizing this changing demographic, and the company is actively looking for ways to get more women into gaming. Supporting such events as female-focused gaming competitions and continuously looking for qualified women to work in the Windows Graphics and Gaming Division are just a few movements within Microsoft focusing on women. Female gamers were also featured in three out of the four TV advertisements running this past holiday season for the Xbox video game system.

As the gaming industry grows, more women are getting exposure to games, and, in turn, more are getting serious about gaming. Case feels that as gaming technology advances, women find gaming much more accessible.Games like The Sims and Zoo Tycoon are just the beginning in attracting women to more serious, large-scale games, says Case.

Its also so encouraging to see girls growing up with technology as they are now, she adds. Surely well see an increasing number of women (and a more diverse group overall) designing and creating games, which can only improve the gaming for all of us. We are finally ready to move out of the infancy of women as novelty in gaming to a much more exciting era of mainstream interactive entertainment.

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