August 23, 2007
Wii and AARP: Another Example of Surplus Fans

As some blog readers may know and those within C3 who follow my work more in-depth, I am quite interested in surplus audiences. For anyone interested in my thesis work on soap opera fandom, you will see that come out even more. (A copy of my thesis is available here; thanks for the plug, Boing Boing.)

My work has focused in the past on female fans of professional wrestling, for instance, or in my thesis work on male viewers of soaps, or viewers over the age of the target demographic. No matter what the lies of target demos might tell us, these people still add significant value to the properties and often are engaged consumers/fans.

C3 Alum Geoffrey Long sent me this piece a little while back on Wii players 50 and older.

The article, which was copied from AARP: The Magazine, points out that 25 percent of the gamers out there are 50 or older. In my thesis, I make many of the same points about soap opera fans, that they are often quite connected online and defy many of the stereotypes the industry has developed about those 50 and older. In fact, I argue that the older demographic could and should be valued not just as a surplus audience but in creative ways for the target demographic as well, especially for something as transgenerational as soaps.

1/4 of gamers being over 50 is an important statistic to keep in mind and one that really emphasizes how short-sighted the idea of games as being for youth really is.

I wrote about some of these issues back in May, following an article on TV Land. By targeting baby boomers, the network is defying many of the traditions of television as being about the 18-49 demographic.

I wrote:

Manly provides both the historical context behind this youth-driven focus and also some facts that helps dispel the facts that younger is better. In short, decades ago ABC was at the bottom of the pack in Nielsen ratings but started bragging about how they were drawing in the then-young baby boomer generation. Soon, even though their numbers were lower, their network was selling advertising at a higher rate than anyone else. Now, even though that "boomer" population is over the age of 50, the rhetoric of selling youth has stuck.

The rhetoric surrounding gaming has been much the same, and I think these stories about real audiences, rather than presumptions about what the majority of the audience looks like, is crucial. Older gamers are a major part of the market, just as female gamers are, and that's a point that shouldn't be forgotten.