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Special Report on Reaching Girls: Software market fashions titles based on girls’ interests

Even though the female demographic represents half the children's viewing audience, studio executives and television programmers continue to consider shows aimed at girls as niche programming. But as this coming season suggests, change appears to be on the horizon. Several new...
August 1, 1997

Even though the female demographic represents half the children’s viewing audience, studio executives and television programmers continue to consider shows aimed at girls as niche programming. But as this coming season suggests, change appears to be on the horizon. Several new TV shows and a number of upcoming features have girls starring in lead roles. And in the CD-ROM business, a series of products are finding particular popularity among females. The following report looks at how the entertainment and marketing communities are reaching out to girls.

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As the strong sales of girls software in the last year have proven, girls will play on computers if they can find products tailored to their interests and play patterns.

Extensive research by software publishers and developers shows that girls aren’t turned on by the score-driven, action-based game play that appeals to boys.

Girls of all ages enjoy fantasy and role playing. For young girls, these interests are often expressed through playing with dolls. IBM and Binney & Smith, maker of Crayola products, are tapping into this with IBM Brings You Crayola Magic Wardrobe, which allows girls to create paper dolls with different hair, skin and eye colors, dress them in clothing from 12 historical periods and read the characters’ diary entries. Once designed, the dolls and clothing can be printed and assembled to extend their play off the computer.

The ability to be creative and to make something that they can show to their friends and family is something that PrintPaks Inc. has found draws girls to its multimedia craft titles, although these products are not targeted to girls exclusively. Also, says Judy MacDonald, president and CEO of PrintPaks, becoming the home expert on the color printer can be empowering for girls.

The most enduring girls franchise, Barbie, is continuing to expand her interactive presence with new titles from Mattel Media that respond to how girls play with their Barbie dolls. To date, Barbie Fashion Designer, released last November, has sold in excess of 520,000 units in the U.S., according to PC Data. Barbie Magic Hair Styler invites girls to cut, curl and color Barbie’s hair, apply her makeup and choose her accessories for a night on the town. And the Talk With Me Barbie CD-ROM and doll kit engages girls in conversations with a Barbie doll based on information that they type into their computers.

Besides playing, girls also like to learn about themselves and their world. Purple Moon, a newcomer on the girls software scene this year, introduces girls to real-life settings in Rockett’s New School and Secret Paths in the Forest, which the company describes as ‘friendship adventures’ for girls age eight to 12. And Let’s Talk About ME!, launched last year by Girl Games and Simon & Schuster Interactive, explores a variety of topics that are important to its eight- to 14-year-old target audience, from their bodies to female role models. (According to PC Data, the title has sold about 20,000 units in the U.S. since its fall 1996 release.) Web sites by Purple Moon (www.purple-moon.com) and Girl Games (www.planetgirl.com) also offer a chance to interact with the characters in software titles and to meet and chat with other girls.

As in other areas of the kids business, popular licensed properties are also crossing over into girls software. For young girls, Creative Wonders is expanding its Madeline line and has recently acquired the license to The Baby-sitters Club book series, which will draw an older crowd age seven to 11. Girl Games is also developing titles for tweens and teens based on the television shows Clueless (to be published by Mattel Media) and Sabrina, The Teenage Witch (to be released by CUC Software and Simon & Schuster Interactive).

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