Of the more than 1,000 respondents to the Denizens of Digitivity survey, released last week, 44% of women said they own a gaming console such as a Wii, Xbox or PlayStation, compared with just 39% of men. The survey was conducted online from Sept. 7-11.
Whether or not the findings are indicative of the general U.S. population, they are further evidence that the stereotype of the U.S. gamer--18- to-34-year-olds, single, white and male--is not necessarily on target. Indeed, the findings echo a 2006 JWT trend newsletter that explored the rising role of the female player in gamer culture.
While women are only a small percentage of the audience for violent blockbusters like "Halo," the newsletter said, they are increasingly taking part in dance and music games, making them a fast-growing segment of the gamer population.
"The idea of gaming being just for the 18-34 male set is now out of date," said Ann Mack, director of trendspotting for JWT. "You're seeing women playing games like 'Dance Dance Revolution' and 'Guitar Hero'--women under 35 who want to do something fun and social."
Mack also noted the impact that the Nintendo Wii, a console aimed at casual gamers seeking a more social experience, has had on the female player.
"The Wii has really caused a democratization of gaming, because that has opened it up to all generations and both genders," Mack said.
The video game market has been pulling an ever-widening share of U.S. advertising dollars in recent years, and the influx of female gamers will likely shape how those dollars are spent. And while marketers are probably not paying enough attention to the female player market right now, Mack said, they should be careful not to move too fast, either.
"The money is where the hardcore gamers are. They're the ones who are really passionate about it and the ones who are going to go out and buy the beta version in order to be part of the next 'Halo' game," she said. "But more and more, as these consumers groups open up, [marketers] will focus on these growing segments."
The survey also found that a slight majority of respondents (55%) could imagine "feeling OK" without an Internet connection for a few days at most; and only about a fifth more than that (18%) could go without access for a full week.
"The survey shows that time spent with new digital technologies eats not only into time spent with traditional media but also into physical activity, face-to-face socializing and even sex," it stated.
The research also suggested that women are slightly more likely to own a digital camera than men, men and under-35 are most likely to use WiFi networking at home, and men are more likely than women to access the Web from outside the home.