As troublingly insulting as the thinking behind the Imagine series is, the execution of the products is even more so. Take the UK Imagine Babies boxart seen here (and everywhere from Play.com to NeoGAF), complete with iStockphoto watermarks still in place. Could less money or effort have been put into this? Your commitment to young female gamers is apparent, Ubisoft. Also, isn't this one of those cases in which playing with dolls might be better accomplished with actual dolls? After all, we expect there's a reason Nintendo debuted Nintendogs and not Nintenkids, teenage pregnancy rates and the horror of starving babies aside.
Of course, in America, if Ubisoft had their way, that would be Nintenkidz. We assume, anyway, since Imagine Babies becomes Imagine Babyz when it immigrates to the 'States. At least children in the UK get their insulting games with correctly-spelled titles! Maybe we don't want Ubisoft teaching us words after all. We haven't yet seen the art for Imagine Babyz, but we do hope someone notices the watermarks before it hits. Of course, they're present in the other UK Imagine titles, Happy Cooking and Fashion Designer, so we may be expecting too much.
But don't worry! Girls can also be Animal Doctors! We can only guess real doctorin' is left to the menfolk. In the U.S., Happy Cooking becomes Master Chef (American girls can apparently aspire to greater heights, according to Ubisoft), Fashion Designer remains the same, and eventually, there'll be a Figure Skating game as well as part of the series. How did Ubisoft determine that these were the things that interest young girls? Science!
Helene Juguet, senior director of marketing at Ubisoft, said, "Our consumer research revealed that the young girls' market has been relatively overlooked. We are happy to introduce a variety of titles relevant to what girls in this age group have indicated they are most interested in." We can only hope they spent more money on consumer research than they did on the box designs!
Now, don't think we find these titles entirely without merit. There's nothing wrong with teaching girls of any age to follow their dreams, and if those dreams are of fashion design or figure skating, that's great! It's important that they (and everyone else) learn that even the most fun jobs require hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. So the idea of a champion figure skater learning to balance school, friends, and training in order to achieve her dreams sounds good on paper. It's also important, however, that girls not feel either limited in scope, or ignored with this kind of cheap, slapdash marketing. It sets a very poor precedent, and one that does not bode well for female gamers of the future. If this continues, what comes next?