Last month I was lucky enough to attend Gamescom 2011 along with the rest of the Sony Ericsson XperiaTM PLAY team, to help out on the XperiaTM PLAY booth (which looked awesome!).
Being the resident Wolfstar geek (every company needs one!) means I’ve had the chance to work on the PLAY account from the start. It’s more then I ever could have hoped for on my internship year, with it being an amazingly fast paced and exciting account and totally focused around one of my own interests; the video games industry.
Still a man’s world?
Whenever the topic arises in conversation, I usually get a funny look when I say I’m into gaming, People assume I must mean on the Wii playing fitness games (which admittedly I do) or on a more female orientated game like The Sims (again, guilty), so they are yet again surprised when I explain it’s more the action and shooter games that I put my hours into.
It’s a stereotype that I thought was perhaps starting to fade a little. Stats show female gamers are on the rise and plenty of girls I know either play games or know a fair amount about different titles. However, my time at Gamescom confirmed that this is still a hugely male dominated industry, both in the people behind the biggest titles and the fans buying them and crowding to conventions and exhibitions.
If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the ratio of men to women at Gamescom was around 150:1, and that’s being conservative at best. It’s not hard to see why the event draws in a huge number of male fans. Getting a first look and play on titles like Battlefield, Modern Warfare and Mass Effect is a huge attraction in itself and the scantly clad girls on some of the stands probably also helps. Walking through one the halls I saw a group excitedly hurrying over to join a large crowd gathering around a stand. I thought that they were perhaps giving away some freebies or demoing new content. But no, upon closer inspection it was in fact a group of dancers in bikinis and fishnets that seemed to have pulled in the throngs.
Now I’m not naïve enough to think that this approach doesn’t work. Sex sells, it a proven tactic that works no better than in an industry hugely dominated by a young, male audience. However, it also alienates that smaller but growing segment of the market that are actually just there to see what titles they’ll be spending their money on next year.
Speaking to a fellow female gaming fan on site, she summed it up perfectly with, “If people hear you like gaming, they either assume you’re a fat, girl gamer or a bimbo just pretending to like games for attention – there is no in-between for them.”
It seems such a shame that this is still the outlook on the industry, however, all is not lost and I didn’t set out to write such a miserable post! I did see a fair few female fans on site that fit neither category and were just as excited to be there as I was. I think there’ll be more next year too, with recent researching showing an increase in female gamer – 42% of US gamers are now XX gene owners (source and well worth reading – the ESA 2011 video gaming stats).
The ‘stereotypical gamer’ often ridiculed on and offline (think World of Warcraft in South Park) also seems well and truly dead. True there were a lot of the more ‘traditional’ gamers checking out the vast selection on MMORPG titles on show, but there were also families bringing young gamers along, packs of teenage boys that would look just as much at home in TopMan, groups of indie-looking boys and girls sitting in line waiting to try out Assassins Creed, and a huge number of young ‘new media’ types who were live blogging and tweeting from the event. None any better or more social acceptable than the other; just a great mix of keen gamers.
From speaking with some of the more famous YouTube bloggers at the show, it’s clear to see there is a real shift in the look for the more ‘hard-core gamer’. These more exposed gamers are on the front line to break the stereotype and stigma that still lingers around the industry to outsiders and help mould the way the industry changes as it continues to grow.
Bigger than ever
Anyone doubting the power and fan base of the video gaming industry would have to reconsider the way they think with the incredible turnout at Gamescom. On Saturday, there were a rumoured 80,000 extra people than expected to show up, leaving thousands outside unable to get entry as the colossal 10 halls at the Koelnmesse were still not enough to contain the incredible turnout.
This is why I find the video games sector of PR more exciting and fast paced than any other. Where else can you work on campaigns for the biggest selling entertainment launch of all time (Call of Duty: Black Ops – source) or think of strategy behind a product that will break records for becoming the best selling tech product, such as the XBOX Kinect (source).
The industry is huge, growing at an incredible rate and constantly evolving in terms of innovation, audience and trends. Gamescom was a fantastic way to see this idea ‘in the flesh’. Whether it be the contrast between a break dancing show for Lets Dance on PlayStation Move right next to a crowd watching men in a glass both on PC’s with headsets D.O.T.A 2. Or the way technology is bringing a whole experience to gaming, from the creative ways people are using the XBOX Kinect to get players moving or how Gears of War 3 will take advantage of the UnReal engine to ensure the trilogy finishes on a high.
One things for sure, there will be a lot more to come during the next year in the video games industry in terms of innovation, excitement and, of course, revenue. I’m looking forward to every minute of it.