Developers and publishers have been meddling with the DLC model for years, but in no way did anyone think advertising would become gender-based. As Ben Kuchera of The PA Report writes: "Think of it as a kind of ladies night at a bar where drinks are less expensive to try to get women into the door to hang out". I tip my hat to you sir, good metaphor.
The game in question is called Prime World, an upcoming League of Legends-esque brawler played exclusively on Facebook or mobile devices. The strange pricing method is meant to encourage female players, and to keep them playing, the female cast will get special bonuses when paired with other female battlers.
But there's one problem: changing your Facebook gender status is only a click away. And furthermore, wouldn't this actually work counter-intuitively because serious female gamers are getting preferential treatment? It's an interesting idea, and certainly a great way to garner publicity by trying an innovative pricing model, but it alienates male gamers, the likeliest people to play. The many people I know on Facebook still addicted to FarmVille and other Zynga titles are devoutly loyal, so swaying them to play a more complex game is a daunting task indeed.
However, the craziness of this plan might actually be on to something. The majority of Facebook and social gamers are female, and the industry hasn't really grasped a way to appeal to that audience exclusively. It's a huge and growing market and will probably overtake console gaming within the next five years. So while the consoles are getting brawlers pandering to the supposed male persona, this may spark contentious debate among publishers to decide the target of their advertising.
Sadly, this plan misses the point entirely. The industry still hasn't figured out an effective way to advertise to female gamers, but by just giving them a price cut the publisher isn't doing itself any favours. The plethora of male-focused advertising needs to change because of the shifting economic climate, so instead of the corporate side assuming what women want, why not just ask?
Here's one suggestion: instead of advertising to them directly, why not give women the chance to understand what your game is about? Why people, not strictly women, are so hesitant to try games in the first place is because online gaming is seen as a hostile environment. And to a degree they're right. Instead of pandering by making them pay less, why not show women actually playing the game in the first place so they know they aren't alone. Prospective players can relate, and boom - a new fanbase is born.
Nival, the studio behind Prime World, has created some fruitful discussion. I've said my bit, so what is your take? Do you agree or disagree, and what is your reasoning? Get angry in the comment section below! Jeff out.
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Also, I have an interview with the author of the original article, Mr. Kuchera, probably going up later tomorrow. We'll be getting into the nitty-gritty so stay tuned for that. Again, bye everyone!