Game on! Gaming systems appeal to men and women alike

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Father’s Day is almost here, so remember—men love toys. Regardless of his age, you might consider getting your guy a new video game or gaming system, as they continue to be popular. But ladies, if you buy him this kind of toy, your guy may need to share with you—because more women are gaming, too.

CherylPearsonMcNeilbox

According to The Nielsen Company, the world’s largest marketing research company (aka, my employer), women love Wii, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Except perhaps for me. While I have spent hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars buying gaming components (the money invested in batteries alone could have netted me a hefty return by now if put into a Certificate of Deposit), I’ve actually spent less than 20 minutes playing a game. Clearly, I don’t buy them for myself. But am I the norm?

Nielsen not only measures television viewing, but consumer goods, online, mobile and gaming industries as well. And according to recent Nielsen Games’ data, although retail sales overall are down, Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3 each tend to appeal to different demographic groups—including women. Here’s the breakdown:

Wii is the best-selling of the three consoles, appealing most to boys age 6-11 and women age 25-34. Older women (35+) also prefer Wii games such as Wii Fit (as in, “I’ll do anything to avoid a health club!”). Guitar Hero and Rock Band (Okay—rediscovering our inner teenager) appear to have engaged older female gamers like never before. However, usage by the 18-24 age group, considered the hardcore gaming segment, is low for both men and women. Perhaps they already live healthy, fit, rock band lives daily—so there’s no need to do so virtually?

So your man is an Xbox 360 fan? Tell him other males 12-17 love it, too, and watch his reaction! Xbox fans tend to be older than Wii users, but younger than the PS3 crowd. For the ladies, the 25-34 age group had the highest percentage of usage. Could be they are also attracted to service features like Xbox Live, (which allows you to chat while playing, and you know we women love to chat) or it could be the ability to download movies, user-generated games, additional game content and even music videos. Just writing this makes me tempted to venture into my basement and see if my 13-year-old son will let me give it a whirl… Nah, no need in gettin’ my feelings hurt unnecessarily and being called a “newb” as in (“you’re too new to know what you’re doing ma.”) As it is, I am convinced that if left unattended, my manchild could very well develop into a fully grown, middle-aged man right there in the basement playing those video games; without the least interest in coming up for air over, say, the next 30 years. All I need to do is provide a steady supply of bottled water and pizza and years later—voila! He resurfaces all grown up. Just like a Chia pet! Scary huh? But I digress.

Sony has been the winner in the gaming market since it introduced the PS One in 1994 and PS2 in 2000. Consumer brand loyalty (and nostalgia) are likely factors in the purchase and play with the PS3. Gamers who owned earlier consoles in their youth may have “graduated” to the PS3 as they got older. For both males and females, the highest usage came from those in the 18-24 age group.

Did you know a specific game title (no matter how “hot” it’s supposed to be) ranks lowest on the list of what drives a consumer to invest in the necessary gaming systems? And in case you’re wondering just which games are most popular, here’s the Top 5 as of May 8:

#1: “Super Mario Galaxy 2” (Really, those little men are still around? Kind of old school from back in the day, aren’t they?)

#2 “Iron Man 2”

#3 “Halo: Reach”

#4 “Starcraft II”

#5 “Madden NFL 11.”

For those ladies who buy games for yourselves, Game on sistahs! For those making purchases for your fellas—dare to venture into their “man caves” for a little virtual fun. You might actually enjoy yourself or even find a new way to connect with the guy in your life. I’ll give it a try with my son, and let you know how well that works out.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the grown up, young-at-heart dads.

(Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is the senior vice president of public affairs and government relations at The Nielsen Company, the world’s largest market research company. For more insights visit http://www.nielsenwire.com.)

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