At first glance, a company famous for its virtual sheep-tossing game and the biggest comedy of the summer might seem like strange bedfellows. Scratch the surface, though, and you'll find casual gaming company Zynga and Bridesmaids have way more in common than you'd think (much like Annie and that adorable Irish policeman).
Admittedly, the intersection of people interested in the success of casual gaming company Zynga and Bridesmaids might be fairly small, but that's why I'm here!
Zynga's behind insanely popular casual games like FarmVille, Words with Friends, and Mafia Wars, which many of you know from your friends on FaceBook who keep asking you to milk their cows or loan you a wrench or something. It is also making a metric buttload of money; if you'd like to get technical, the company's IPO filing shows a revenue of $597M in 2010 alone. Zynga's IPO will be a tech-bubble-tastic one billion dollars. And most of this money isn't even from selling anything tangible! SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE.
What's more, Zynga is giving top video game dogs Activision Blizzard and EA a run for their money -- no small feat for the companies behind every sports game worth its salt and World of Warcraft, respectively. It's also worth nothing that even though Zynga and FaceBook are BFFs, Google invested a chunk of cash in Zynga last year -- perhaps in anticipation of Google+ or something like it?
According to The Entertainment Software Association, "Forty-two percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (37 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (13 percent)." Guess who makes up the majority of the casual gaming audience? If you guessed ladies, you are correct.
A 2010 study sponsored by casual gaming company PopCap Games found that "women make up the majority of avid social gamers, with 38 percent of female social gamers saying they play social games several times a day, vs. just 29 percent of males." So, even though you might sniff at your mom's addiction to Bejeweled on her iPhone or the Yahoo! solitaire games or that shady poker club she belongs to, there is no question that the predominantly older female audience is savvy, loyal, and an excellent target market for investors, marketers, and advertisers.
What does this have to do with the awesome antics of Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, and Wendi McLendon-Covey? Earlier this spring I floated the idea that perhaps Bridesmaids was under too much pressure to make history as a strictly female comedy. I had mixed feelings about the movement to make Bridesmaids a watershed moment in female comedy. It is a great female comedy! But it's also great for guys, too! It's so representative of female friendship! But Apatow made them put in that food poisoning scene! Tastes great! Less filling! And then I had a mud-wrestling contest with myself. In the end, "Bridesmaids" is just damn funny, flaws and all, and now it really has made history.
Earlier this week, Bridesmaids knocked Sex and the City off its Jimmy Choos to become the highest-earning R-rated female comedy ever. But while the audience for SaTC was predominantly female, Bridesmaids had dudes rolling in the aisles just as much as its female target audience.
Perhaps this argument is a case of wanting to eat my cake and have it too. On one hand, the success of Zynga and Bridesmaids both show that women are just as valuable a target audience as teenage boys. One might argue that our pockets are deeper and, in some cases, our word of mouth is stronger; after all, didn't going to see Bridesmaids on opening weekend become something of an email movement among pro-funny-lady ladies? On the other hand, Zynga's games and Bridesmaids also have a broader appeal. That is what makes Bridesmaids such a fist-pumping victory in entertainment. Although Bridesmaids and casual gaming seem to be pegged to a strictly female audience, the success of both also point to the fact that overall people enjoy things that are enjoyable and well made and fun, that don't make them feel stupid or patronized. It's simple, really. People like quality entertainment. Obviously, it's a lot more complicated than, "Hey studios! Make better movies/video games/etc!" But it also kinda isn't.