Causal Gamers, Women over 40, (aka PopCap games and MS Gaming Zone ;-)
Okay, so I like to develop games. Spend most of my time both work related and free updating my skills for the task at hand. Then out comes the following article on MSNBC http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4235270/ that women over 40 comprise the largest portion of the game market.
The game industry is currently focused on developing the next generation of super games and high end entertainment. The women gamers pointed out in the article are the casual gamers, that don't tend to pay for the super games or high end entertainment, but instead play for the shear social aspect. They will, however, jump into the virtual worlds provided by the current generation of RPGs. I can attest to this, since 90% of my social contacts in online games turn out to be women (of the socail contacts I actual follow through to real-life contacts), the other portion are old hair men pretending to be women ;-)
Now, this brings up an interesting point. As a game developer, how much design time do I need to spend catering to this large target group? Will I change anything about my game to make it more attractive to women over 40? Is it a waste of my time? Obviously some people don't think it is a waste of time. Recent game design books have focused on subjects such as the teen market and marketting your game towards women.
Personally, I think women are a great market to design games for. They tend to become extremely adept at nearly any game input mechanism, puzzle, or design without losing interest at the same rate as the male gender (this is from my own testing, no solid studies here that I can find, so take my word or do your own studies). If you add in a social aspect they are more likely to use social features to their advantage and to maintain their interest in the game. They tend to be less competitive and have less interest in features surrounding competitive gameplay like unhackable high scores lists. In general they play more for shear fun or entertainment than any other gaming group besides children (again, personal small group studies).
The guys over at MUD-Dev seem to have quite a bit of input on this matter as well. I actually found the article through the list system there. When it comes to the online RPG world, this list tends to have some of the best information around and is frequented by some of the big-shots in the online RPG industry. I love it when I find articles that tend to back up the basic principles I have in mind when thinking of various games. Don't get me wrong, I think everyone has what you might call a perfect game for them. Sometimes those games require extreme design focus towards a particular group of people. Sometimes my game ideas are better marketed to women and so I use that to my advantage, while other times I have to target a different group entirely.