April 22, 2008
Soap Opera-Branded Casual Games

As many of you may have read in this post here on the blog earlier in the month, I'm teaching a course this semester on the history and current state of the U.S. soap opera genre, using As the World Turns as a case study. As I continue research on that field, and particularly how one of television's oldest genres may transform itself in interesting ways in a digital age, I'm always interested in hearing of new initiatives being launched.

For instance, see this post from December 2006 on the SOAPnet Fantasy Soap League, the idea being to mimic the success of fantasy football by having fans play games based around some of the stereotypes in the genre. I guess it's a chance for those of us not terribly interested in sports to nevertheless participate in something similar that, in part, measures our knowledge of a media property while also encouraging us to watch the current product. I know I participated in pro wrestling fantasy leagues once upon a time that incorporated some elements from this approach, and it reminds me as well of the Fantasy Television League that some C3-affiliated folks have taken part in.

But, in following soap operas for more than two years here on the Consortium blog, I'm always interested to see how these initiatives launch in the U.S. daytime serial drama industry, which is what attracted my attention to this post from Adrants back in March.

In an effort to further build their brand, Soap Opera Digest has launched casual games surrounding the soap operas, available here. The choices include a jigsaw puzzle of the cover of SOD, a variety of word-based games, solitaire, and other variations on classic casual games.

I personally really like the crossover. From a textual standpoint, it doesn't add anything meaningful to the texts of any of these shows, but it could help create more of a fan following for the brand of the soap opera magazines. According to demographics from the International Game Developers Association in 2005, 71 percent of casual gamers are 25-54 and 63 percent are women. Further, as that population ages into the 55+ demographic, which accounted for 17 percent of casual gamers back in 2005 according to the IGDA statistics, the number of women older than 54 playing games will likely only rise.

To me, it seems that casual gaming is a natural fit for soap opera magazines then, since 18-49 females are their target demo. Further, taking the reality that soaps draw well among 50+ female audiences, those aged outside the target demographic, then it makes sense to marry casual gaming to soap opera magazines.

The games have stayed up for a couple of months now, so I'm assuming that this section of the site has been at least moderately successful. According to research from The Millard Group (see here and here), Soap Opera Digest subscribers are 83 percent female with the median age of 50, while Soap Opera Weekly's subscribers are 84 percent female with an average age of 50.

If any readers out there participate in these casual games or have any idea of the success of these initiatives, I'd be interested in knowing. But I think this does emphasize something important the C3 has discussed from time to time, as well as myriad others: casual games are an important market that shouldn't be underestimated in the process of enthusiasm about narrative, transmedia, etc. On the surface, this seems like a fairly low-risk and smart promotional tactic on the part of the soap mags.

And, for more on my class, see our class blog here.