Ubisoft Gets in Touch With Female Side

Launches Exercise Game 'Your Shape' With Oxygen, Jenny McCarthy

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Historically, video-game publisher Ubisoft has not been what you would call female-friendly -- unless of course you consider titles like "Assassin's Creed," "Call Of Juarez: Blood in Blood" and "Splinter Cell Chaos Theory" to be particularly girl-centric. So for its first big push for the women's gaming market, Ubisoft decided it needed two major components: a groundbreaking new technology and a recognizable celebrity.

(from l.) Adam Novickas, director of Marketing, Ubisoft; Jenny McCarthy; Susan Malfa, senior VP-national advertising sales, Bravo and Oxygen; Michael Dupont, VP-national advertising sales, Oxygen
(from l.) Adam Novickas, director of Marketing, Ubisoft; Jenny McCarthy; Susan Malfa, senior VP-national advertising sales, Bravo and Oxygen; Michael Dupont, VP-national advertising sales, Oxygen Credit: Oxygen
Enter "Your Shape," a new female-targeted fitness game launched for the Wii last month. The "exergame" is hosted by Jenny McCarthy, who leads gamers through an interactive and innovative workout experience enabled by a first-of-its-kind motion-censor camera that picks up body movement without the use of any accessories, like the Wii Fit does.

"We're starting to build games for nontraditional gamers, as well as for other brands," said Adam Novickas, Ubisoft's marketing director, citing "Gold's Gym Cardio Workout" as a recent example.

A medium-size spender in the video-game market (the company spent $42 million on measured media in 2008, according to TNS Media Intelligence), Ubisoft could also afford to take a few risks with its non-core demographic this year. Not that women can still be considered "nontraditional" gamers; Mr. Novickas said females account for roughly 50% of the gaming community these days.

So the chance to reach out to younger women in first-time settings presented a few unique opportunities, including booking Ms. McCarthy on "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien."

"Those kinds of gamers are not used to being marketed to, so we could find unexpected places to reach them," Mr. Novickas said.

Deal with cable network
Ubisoft also teamed up with Oxygen for a multiplatform campaign that included several on-air buys during the cable network's "Dance Your Ass Off" marathon and "Obsessed" vignettes to push both "Your Shape" and dancing game "Just Dance," representing Oxygen's biggest gaming partnership to date.

Susan Malfa, Oxygen's exec VP-ad sales, said the network has grown its gaming business by 200% year-over-year, prompting Oxygen.com to develop more casual-gaming platforms online.

"What has happened is gaming platforms have broadened to reach young women, and we're perfectly in that sweet spot," Ms. Malfa said.

Also included in the partnership was a launch event at Los Angeles nightclub Hyde, where Ms. McCarthy appeared alongside other celebs such as Melissa Joan Hart, "Dancing With the Stars" winner Gilles Marini and Rex Lee of "Entourage" and attendees could try a live demo of the hands-free game.

As "Your Shape" gains traction going into the holiday shopping season, it enters an increasingly crowded category of fitness games for Nintendo's popular Wii platform, which had no less than four fitness and sports games in the top 20 best-selling video games the week of Dec. 12. "Your Shape" had yet to crack the top 50.

Slow sales start aside, Mr. Novickas said Ubisoft is open to developing more games using "Your Shape"'s innovative camera.

"We want to make video games accessible to more people, so we're starting to pull the barriers away and look at the future," he said.

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