This week, several things cropped up on the radar which collectively suggest some sort of tipping point. Or, I suppose, more likely that the point has tipped and we are starting to see the effects.
The first announcements were released in conjunction with the event, Casual Connect. Sony Online announced the relaunch of Station.com, a portal for the casual experience of games, including access to trials of Sony's MMOs. Nickelodean announced plans to spend $100 million over the next two years on casual games and virtual worlds. Oh, and did I mention that casual games are still dominated by female players?
Gamasutra didn't pick it up, but this week also saw the news that Barbie Girls, a virtual world aimed at, you might guess, preteen girls, experienced astonishingly explosive growth, reaching 3 million users in sixty days.
And you thought WoW was popular.
Then in recent game announcements, Ubisoft released details on a new series of games specifically for girls. The Imagine series include aspirational games based on professions, like fashion designer, veternarian, and figure skater. There's also a virtual baby doll with Imagine Babyz. Throw in Imagine Equestrienne and I'm so there.
Speaking of things equine, Atari is coming out with a horse-riding simulation game, My Horse and Me. The language in the official PR is carefully gender-neutral, speaking very coolly of the "Horse-enthusiast community", but you cannot convince me that in North America, at least, this game is not targeted specifically at horse-crazy girls between the ages of seven and fourteen. Which is to say, nearly all girls.
You may also have read that the PS3 has finally sold 1 million units in Japan eight months after launch. It took the Wii six weeks to reach the same milestone. Why? In part because flocks of non gamers (many of them women) bought a console, some, I've no doubt, for the first time in their lives.