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Gamers use bullets, bombs, bikinis

From CNN's tech correspondent Kristie Lu Stout

Showing their bytes: game developers are targeting the young male demographic.
Showing their bytes: game developers are targeting the young male demographic.

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The game industry is looking to expand into the female market. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports. 

HONG KONG, China -- When it comes to guys, video games are a no-brainer -- bullets, bombs and bikinis.

"Xtreme Beach Volleyball" is the latest in a hit game series from Tecmo. The objective? To maneuver buxom beach babes in bikinis.

Another game is "Xtreme Hopping." In this quest, a scantily clad and well endowed woman in a bikini hops across flotation devices in a pool.

On the heels of "Tomb Raider," "BMX XXX" and "Bikini Karate Babes," racy female characters are being served as eye candy in the testosterone-pumped world of video games.

Game developers say the increasingly suggestive content in video games is a response to its target market -- young male adults who no longer see the hobby as child's play.

But are game makers missing out on another lucrative market -- the female gamer? And what will it take to bring female gamers onto the field?

One female game player, Vivien Luke, says "Xtreme Hopping" is not her thing.

"It's kind of an insult. For the whole game, there are no men inside," says Luke.

Game makers are introducing sexual themes to boost sales. The striptease action of scantily-clad "Bikini Karate Babes," is one case in point.

Phuong Tram, who plays the goddess Tien Wu, doesn't play such games but knows why the guys do.

"Guys always jump at the chance to be able to control a woman," says Phuong Tram.

While games such as beach volleyball feature hot females, they lack the feminine touch because they are designed for young men and boys, the overwhelming majority of today's video game players.

In the United States last year, video games reaped in $10.3 billion, surpassing the $9.5 billion garnered by the American box office.

This was a feat achieved without much in the way of female dollars.

Xtreme Hopping
Xtreme Hopping has skipped the female gaming crowd.

"In Hollywood there's an understanding that the women's market is a huge piece of the market and you have to appeal to that huge piece of the market," says Erick Wujcik, a game developer and lecturer at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

"In the game field, we haven't really seen that happen."

Hit games like "The Sims" appeal to both sexes, but the game industry has yet to create a successful title for women.

And it's not likely to happen anytime soon.

"Typically, a good A-level game is going to cost $2 million to $10 million, $25 million if it's a massive multiplayer game," says Wujcik.

"Can they afford to spend that kind of money on an experiment on a market that hasn't proved itself? Well, no, I don't think they're going to do that."

The investment would be made if developers only knew what female gamers want.

"I think as a female gamer I want something that is not so violent. Something I can use my brain to solve. Something like adventure and puzzle games, that is what I want," says Luke.

What about "Tomb Raider", an adventure game that some females might find appealing?

"Yeah, but please stop the shooting for a while," says Luke, in a small request from a neglected fan.


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