What a woman really wants

Peggy Anne Saiz
15 Jun 2007

Every year women spend billions on magazines, movies and other forms of lifestyle content. So why is there still a gross mismatch between what women expect and what the mobile industry delivers in terms of games and in the larger category of lifestyle applications‾

Recent research highlights the scale of the problem and confirms women are an underserved and misunderstood market segment. In North America, for example, LimeLife, a mobile consumer software publisher focused exclusively on content for women, has studied the mobile motivations, usage patterns and content interests of women ages 18-49. Its findings, while over a year old (December 2005), speaks volumes about women's use of their mobile phones and their fit within women's lifestyles and life stages.

The mobile phone initially serves as a "private line" for girls 16-17, then evolves to an "always with me connected buddy" during college years, gradually becoming more functional and ultimately beginning to serve as a "command central" for working moms and women pursuing careers. The research also identified a strong interest among women in mobile applications that function as reminders, such as alerts, and help them be more productive and efficient as they multitask throughout their typical day. The research also revealed games are second only to ringtones for desired mobile downloads among women.

Unfortunately, the market is flooded with content that "most females find a turn-off," observes Iain Gillott, founder of iGillott Research (iGR), a market strategy consultancy focussed on wireless. "The typical complaint is that the majority of games available on the market today are "Ëœkill-and-kick it entertainment' and neither sports nor violence appeals to most women."

Indeed, the female demographic wants intelligent games, or apps that allow them to connect with real-life friends or nurture relationships in virtual worlds.

"Communication and social networking is a huge part of personal mobility for girls," Gillott explains. It begins with the fact that girls typically get their first phone 18 months to two years earlier than boys, according to iGR focus groups. "Among boys, mobile has a high cool factor; among girls it's about communicating, connecting and sharing."

The personal touch

Electronic Arts is one company determined to tap the female market and its pent-up demand for more engaging games and content - via multiple Sims titles, including Sims City, Sims Pets and, more recently, Sims Bowling. "Games like Sims are not linear games; they allow users the freedom to explore a world and create almost a mobile soap opera," explains Mike McCabe, EA's Mobile Asia Pacific regional director. In his opinion, it's the greater involvement in the creative process and the ability to personalize and customize the content consumption experience that appeals to women most.

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