Think "Madden" is strictly for the guys? Gamestop doesn't think so.
On Monday, the national video game retailer launched "Girls Night In," a microsite aimed at women encouraging them to host their own "Madden NFL 09" parties and "designed to help educate wives, moms and girlfriends about the Madden phenomenon."
The website promotes the Wii "All-Play" version and offers football trivia and terminology, tips on how to play the video game and what items they'll need to host their own women-only "Madden" party. It begins by saying, "The start of 2008 football season is just on the horizon. Are you worried girls? Well now you don’t have to be... You can even learn some football facts that will impress the most die-hard NFL fans. So get the girls together, throw on a jersey, and get gaming!"
I called up Betty Shock, regional vice president of Gamestop, about their new initiative to draw females into playing the new "Madden."
"Madden is such an incredibly huge game for us, and what happens to females during the winter months is that they become football widows," Shock explained. "So what better opportunity to start the website and really get females to begin interacting with football?"
To reach out to potential female "Madden" players, Gamestop decided that a website, with some assets provided by EA, was the best way to go. "The website is an area for [women] to go to where it's not intimidating," Shock said. "They can learn information on their own versus asking questions to maybe some of the guys that they hang out with and play with."
"The website is an area for [women] to go to where it’s not intimidating," Shock said. "They can learn information on their own versus asking questions to maybe some of the guys that they hang out with and play with."
Shock went on to cite statistics that 38 percent of gamers are female and credited a lot of that to the Wii and DS platforms. That's also the reason why the "Girls Night In" website specifically promotes the Wii "All-Play" version of the game.
"If you look at the Wii 'All-Play' version it is a lot less intimidating for females because of the controller," she said. Shock saw the game at a launch event on Monday night and thought it looked "very cool" and something that she would play with her children even though she hadn't played "Madden" before.
"If [women] are just starting out playing the game, this will help them because if you're not a huge core gamer, [the Xbox 360 and the PS3] controllers can be pretty intimidating," she said. "You have to learn which buttons to push at which times, and for the Wii you don't really have to do that."
I asked Shock if she thought that making a microsite aimed at women was patronizing at all, particularly because of some of the language used on the website.
I asked Shock if she thought that making a microsite aimed at women was patronizing at all, particularly because of some of the language used on the website telling women that they could use the trivia listed to "wow them with your football knowledge!" and have party supplies based on "your favorite (or cutest quarterback's) team's colors."
She replied, "I don't know the answer to that, but right now what we're trying to do is to set up a venue for females to feel more comfortable in playing video games." She told me that other women she spoke to at the launch event were very excited about the website and planned to host their own "Girls Night In" parties.
Shock also revealed that "Madden" might not be the only title to get the "Girls Night In" treatment. She's currently brainstorming with her female managers about other ideas and in-store events aimed at women. "I know that we have a lot of big games coming out in the fall, and we''ll probably start putting some additional games on [a website] in terms of things like tips," she said.
I wondered if it was possible to see a microsite aimed at women for say, the more girlfriend-friendly "Gears of War 2." "Absolutely," she said.