Developer Nival will use gender for game balance and pricing in an effort to attract the sisters and wives of hardcore players.
Players who set up an account with Russian developer Nival's upcoming fantasy-flavored MMO, Prime World, might be surprised when first logging in. Unlike most games, wherein the player can create any avatar they desire, Prime World will ask for your gender. And not only ask, but actually require you to login to Facebook to prove it. So, why all this trouble to determine if you're XX or XY? Because in Prime World, it will affect your character, his or her abilities, and the price of in-game purchases.
"The idea is to introduce the MOBA genre not only to hardcore players who already love it," explained Larisa Nuretdinova, creative director for Nival, "but to their friends who might be more casual, and of course to their sisters and girlfriends who may not be as hardcore."
Girls won't just have to pay less; they'll have special abilities, too. Females who join parties can grant special buffs and bonuses to the men they play with, and visa versa. They'll even be able to purchase extra, gender-exclusive characters on the cheap.
"To do the very best, you'll want a female player on your team," Nuretdinova continued. "You don't need to have male and female players on the same team to win, but it will certainly help. The game will be connected to your Facebook account, so it will actually be able to check that your real-life gender, and the bonus is only available when a team is made of mixture of male and female players who are playing as characters of the required gender."
Nival hopes that by adding these women-centric mechanics, it can attract a larger pool of females into the game, thereby creating what it defines as a true social atmosphere.
"When boys gather around to play games just with each other, it's not really social," Nuretdinova says. "When girls gather around just to chat, it's not very social. The social starts when they hang out together and play games together."
I can understand the desire to attract an under-represented demographic into your game, but I wonder if that would be better achieved by simply making the product more in-line with their interests, or refocusing the marketing campaigns. Simply lobbing discounts and abilities at them seems like convincing your friend to play Monopoly with you by letting him or her start with a hotel on Park Place and Boardwalk. I suppose that might work, but at what cost to the experience? Still, the specifics have yet to be announced, and all innovation is met with a few speedbumps that need smoothing before taking hold.