Understanding older women gamers

Marketing activity aimed at older women gamers needs to show an understanding of their concerns and preferences, writes Emily Hunt, research director, ICM Research.

The social element of online gaming is important to older women
The social element of online gaming is important to older women

Who’s betting that Britain is facing a looming epidemic of older, female gamblers?

Just about everyone it seems – including MPs, the National Centre for Social Research and the popular press, who all seem concerned that as a larger number of older women go online it is all too easy for them to morph into something out of The Cincinnati Kid and open a Poker Stars or Paddy Power Bingo account.

However, our recent research shows that women 45+ are still less likely to gamble online than the overall UK population.

Fifteen percent of the UK online population say that they gamble online, while only 9% of women 45+ do. 

There is clearly no epidemic of online gambling women, with 7% playing Bingo online, 2% betting on sports online and just 1% playing Poker online.

In fact, these gambling women are part of larger group of gaming women. 

We know from our research that a full 42% of British women over 45 are gamers.

Some of them are playing Wii Fit or another console game, some are playing Words with Friends online, or, yes, dabbling with online Bingo. 

These are the mothers and grandmothers – the "mumsnetters" and "silver surfers" we hear so much about - who are now online, constantly posting on Facebook about finding the next hidden object in Garden of Time.

They see online gaming as a new leisure activity and they are participating with enthusiasm.

Like other gamers in the UK, the vast majority of these women say that they game just to pass the time (63%), but in addition, half of 45+ female gamers say that they play to keep mentally fit.

And, faced with daily headlines about how regular cerebral stimulation helps ward off the physical and mental infirmities we associate with old age, shouldn’t signing up to Cityville be available on prescription?

In follow up in-depth interviews with older female gamers, we found that the social element of online gaming is really important – they go online to interact with current friends and to make new ones. 

While the games draw them in, they tend to make repeat visits to chat, socialise or interact with younger family members.

This is a group for whom gaming is increasingly becoming an alternative to standard leisure entertainment such as TV and puzzle books.

This can make targeting them traditionally somewhat less effective, but the good news is that this group is now, possibly more than ever, open to engagement with brands through gaming.

For marketers looking to tap into this market, brand tie-ins and sponsored free games can be a great way to engage. 

Like any targeted marketing, however, activity needs to take account of the concerns and preferences of its audience.

We have found that older women:

  • Are open to brand tie-ins and sponsored free games as long as commercial information is integral to the game and doesn’t interrupt them.
  • Worry about damaging their computers and prefer games they don’t have to download.
  • Prefer free games as they are concerned about getting carried away and spending too much, but they are happy to trade their attention for free games.

The truth is these women know that they want. 

They want to watch ads relevant to them – not their kids or grandkids – and to have access to free content that they value. 

Ideally, it should be easy to share with other friends and family online.  And most importantly, the games have to be good. 

They’ve seen the advertainment that their grandkids are looking at online, and it’s not for them.

Emily Hunt, research director, ICM Research