Middle-aged women are getting hooked on card games and puzzles online, says a report.
Women are enjoying games online
While hardcore online gaming remains the preserve of young men, research firm Screen Digest found that "bored housewives" are fuelling the growth of other games offered on the net.
Females make up 65% of the growing market in skill-based games such as cards, solitaire and puzzles.
This kind of casual gaming is estimated to have been worth £270m in 2003.
Willing to pay
The giants of the game world have set their sights on enticing a whole new generation of players, appealing to people who are described as casual gamers.
Microsoft has already launched a new range of online games for its Xbox console to appeal to the less hardcore gamer.
"Amazingly, every single one of the major casual games service providers reported that this growth was being predominantly fuelled by middle-aged and female gamers, the antithesis of the hardcore gaming markets," said report author Nick Gibson.
"We jokingly termed this the bored housewife," he added.
Increasingly these "housewives" are getting involved in competitive gaming, entering skill-based web games tournaments to compete for cash and other prizes.
"They are not only playing games but are willing to pay to play games," said Mr Gibson.
Casual online gaming attracts around five times the volume of players involved in hardcore gaming.
Screen Digest forecasts that the total online computer games market will be worth
£600m in 2004 and reach a high of £1.2bn by 2007.