It’s depressing, but it’s a well-known fact that video game publishers and big-name corporations just don’t know how to market their products toward women. Let’s not mince words here: they’re just awful at it.
Whether it’s a pastel PSP or an ad proclaiming “Girlz Play Too,” there are some truly horrific examples that will likely conjure a wicked case of second-hand embarrassment. Despite the endless amount of surveys that proclaim half the video game-playing public to be women, it’s still such a bewildering concept to these companies that continue to push the pink console and “4 girls” angle as their best efforts at gendered marketing.
There’s always going to be room for improvement, but until then, there’s nothing wrong with looking back at the rotten examples from the past few years. Because without first understanding what has been done wrong, how can we expect anything to be done right? Let’s take a step back and check out ten horrific examples of video game marketing toward women gone wrong.
1. OMG! Lilac PSP!
Obviously, the best way to hook in female consumers is releasing a popular product with an entirely different, more woman-friendly color. Just take a look at Bic’s “For Her” pens. They’re the same scary pens we’re all used to writing with, but in comfortable colors like pink and purple.
Thus, the Lilac PSP was born, complete with the Hannah Montana Entertainment Pack. It combined, at least to the marketing gurus of Sony, two things girls love: pastels and a barely playable game inspired by Disney’s former dress-up doll.
To be fair, this particularly move was meant for teen girls, if the photo of several of them sitting at a lunch table making merry over the fact that “girlz play too” was any indication. The focus of the ad was supposed to have been “girls love to play video games too, as long as they’re on shiny lilac PSPs and running Hannah Montana: The Movie!” Instead, it parodied itself.
To make things a little more interesting, Sony released bundles similar to that of the Hannah Montana Entertainment Pack for male gamers, but they also came standard with classics like Assassin’s Creed and LittleBigPlanet — clearly reserved for men only. This decision only hit home that the more “hardcore” games were, in the PR department’s eyes, just out of any female gamer’s reach. Girlz play too, Sony! Girlz play, too!
2. Games 4 Girls Displays
The Games 4 Girls initiative was a bleak attempt at drawing in younger female gamers with pretty ponies, mermaids, and Bratz with displays set up near the door at many GameStop locations across the globe. The cutesy assortment of braindead titles encouraging young girls to grow up as stereotypically dense bimbos was a slap in the face to seasoned female players with enough sense to choose games based on their own merits. It seemed designed for parents too dim to know any better, but that’s no excuse for GameStop’s little trick.
3. Girl Gamer Magazine
This now-defunct magazine was a shameless publication (from Nintendo, no less) that tried to pull in girly gamers with images of pink DS lites and smiling young ladies probably playing the latest version of My Little Pony or Bejeweled. It was a Future UK publication, and the premiere issue featured such riveting stories as “Cooking Mama 2 — Learn to Cook on Your DS!” and “All the Wii Games You’ll Ever Need to Buy,” which in retrospect were going to be 99% full of trash anyway.
At the very least it was free. That’s about the only thing it had going for it.
4. Kinect Wardrobe
When the Kinect was still being referred to as Project Natal, Microsoft put together a neat little compilation of instances showcasing what the technology could possibly be used for. Included in the mishmash of admittedly awesome ideas (all for male gamers — seriously, watch the video) was a hilariously awful (and horrifically-acted) scene where Sarah chats with her little friend about what kind of dress she’s going to wear to a dance.
The girls giddily run through a selection of virtual clothes and the Kinect is shown as capable enough to display the clothes on the girl’s frame. Being the only clothes/fashion-oriented piece of the video and perpetuating once again the stereotype that women couldn’t possibly be interested in the Kinect for gaming purposes, the clothing idea was ridiculous. And never really materialized fully, anyway.
5. Imagine Games
Ubisoft’s Imagine brand released a series of games ranging from Imagine Fashion Designer to Imagine Figure Skater. Let’s not forget Imagine BABYZ. The sickeningly stereotypical careers were accompanied by nauseating box art and faux-“female”-oriented careers. Oh, and the games were absolute garbage.
Let’s make that clear right now. Every single iteration of the Imagine series has been uninspired, offensive dreck, and the accompanying marketing campaigns didn’t do it any favors.
6. Animal Crossing: City Folk — Shopping and Boutiques!
Animal Crossing: City Folk, along with the Wii Speak accessory, was primarily targeted at women, advertising mainly the shopping and designing aspect of the game along with other “feminine” activities, especially with this series of stiff commercials promoting the game amongst older female players. Both the US and UK ads were unnatural, saccharine, and promoted the game to women rather than all ages, focusing mainly on the social aspects of the game rather than the breadth of activities there were to complete within. Not only was this a strange decision, but it ended up not showcasing exactly all there was to do in the game aside from what would only appeal to female players.
7. Nintendo Girls’ Club
Nintendo’s YouTube channel may be geared toward the younger set like many of the other examples on this list, but the Nintendo Girls’ Club is offensive on a few different levels. The actresses chosen for the videos aren’t exactly relatable, and each “video” and “conversation” feels more like a paid commercial for Nintendo rather than a genuine attempt to connect with girls who enjoy gaming.
Some of the ideas that show host Jorgie discusses are painfully demeaning, given the fact that she’s talking about making the perfect dress rather than meaningful strategies and ideas that players of both genders are actually discussing. It’s frustrating to see such an entity with such reach assuming the best they can get away with is casting a well-known UK “bad girl” actress as a girl gamer when they could do so much more.
On the other hand, I get that Nintendo could very well be catering toward younger non-gamers with non-technical language and fluffy games. But why? Why use the same tired approach from back in the day when video games are so widely accepted these days as an activity for children of either sex?
8. Super Princess Peach
For some reason, Princess Peach is perennially viewed as a role model for young girl gamers. Because obviously, she’s a princess, and that must mean she’s got it all together, right? That actually couldn’t be further from the truth, since Peach can’t seem to save herself and is continually displaying less agency than a pet rock.
That’s why this ad for Super Princess Peach, featuring an army of little girls pouting and stamping their feet just like ol’ Peach herself is so awful. Because showcasing that Super Princess Peach condones getting your way and letting your emotions run wild while emulating a boring and lifeless character just because she’s a princess is the only way girls will be interested in this game.
9. Nintendogs Girl
In this Nintendogs ad back from the debut of the original Nintendo DS, a little girl is depicted talking to her teddy bear about how it just can’t appreciate her “volcanic” outfits anymore, so she’s moving on to Nintendogs. Again pandering to female gamers and little girls on the “fashion” angle, with frustrating and vapid results. And I’m not so sure I’ve ever heard “volcanic” used as a descriptor for an outfit before, unless perhaps it was used in the Stone Age and volcanic ash was a clothes-making material.
10. Tomodachi Life Commercial
It truly seems as though Nintendo aims to be the worst offender when it comes to video game commercials, and its most recent example comes in the form of Tomodachi Life. Two little girls have an animated conversation about the game, rap battles, and all the “whoa, cool!” things you can do within it. I get the attempt at drawing in a younger audience, but this might be one of the worst commercials I’ve seen in quite some time. It could be cute in a different context, but it just drives the point home that Nintendo truly has no clue how to market their games to women.
Did I miss anything? Tell me in the comments!
(Illustration by Dignity13 at deviantArt)