The changing face of gamers

The changing face of gamers

What is the changing face of gamers? If yesterday’s sweet spot used to be the geeky, single, 18-34 year old male with disposable income who played increasingly complex games on average 30-hours per week, then today’s demographic looks like the polar opposite: grandmotherly pensioners and pre-tweens snacking on casual portal games. From the very old to the very young, these “bookend” generations are changing the face of gaming and the business models at its core.

There are all kinds of strange signs that gaming is changing. With the recent release of Grand Theft Auto, I had to wonder if even Rockstar was getting into the blue rinse game, appealing to seniors in subversive ways. Steal a car in GTA 1V and you can now tune in to Public Radio—last time I checked, retirees made up the core demographic for National Public Radio listeners. Is this the ultimate play for EA’s $2B hostile bid for Take-Two right now?

Nintendo’s Wii is partially responsible for opening the new game demographics. The Wii’s great controller and a low price appeal to a broader audience than the traditional male hard-core gamers. Young kids, women and older consumers, long ignored by the mainstream video-game industry, have discovered gaming through the Wii. Unfortunately, they haven’t discovered very many games!

These new gamers just play the games that they have, content to replay the Wii Sports game that comes with the machine. They don’t buy new games with the obsession of the traditional gamer who is constantly seeking new stimulation.

Today we’ve got senior citizens working out on the Wii aboard cruise ships and boomers attempting to ward off dementia playing Brain Age. Or how about the game “Bread ‘n Butter,” a virtual baking competition with 30K regular players, published by Outspark less than three months ago. Who know the virtual equivalent of the Pillsbury Bake-off could be so, er, sexy?

Call it “FaceliftBook” or “GreySpace” or even “Web 65.0”, this generation of consumers coupled with new online trends are having a profound impact on our industry. Companies are ready to put the “entertainment” into “retirement” and to monetize the returns. Canadian media mogul Moses Zneimer, recently launched a multimedia play aimed at ageing boomers, combining radio, television and social networking. Is it only a matter of time before he, Oprah and Martha Stewart – who can all be described as audience aggregators for the aging set – are playing hardball with Vivendi and EA?