Many of us associate the term ‘gamer’ with boys and young men who spend much of their free time playing on their Xbox, PlayStation, Switch or computer. However, there is a surprising number of female gamers, a number that is steadily rising.
In actual fact, women gamers make up 65% of all game players. While we tend to think of gamers as those who play console and PC games, many gamers enjoy games on online sites and mobile apps. Mobile games are even more popular among women than they are men.
On mobile devices, puzzle games are the most popular among women, whereas men tend to prefer strategy or sports games. On both consoles and PC devices, shooter games are played the most by men and action or adventure games by women.
While games across all devices have historically been marketed towards a male audience, many game developers and advertisers are now realizing that there is huge potential to reach women and increase the number of women interested in their games. To do this, they must listen to what female gamers (and potential gamers) would like to see in their games.
So why is the number of women gamers increasing? There are a number of factors influencing this, including marketing techniques, game genre variety, changes to the gaming industry and game character types.
Let’s take a closer look at how gaming companies are working to target female audiences and the impact this is having on the gaming industry as a whole:
Some game types are specifically marketed at women
Online bingo is one example of a game that is played predominantly by women. In fact, women make up an incredible 75% of all online bingo players.
Many, if not most, of the current bingo sites available online strategically market their products towards women. The traditional bingo game has been popular amongst women for decades, played at bingo halls and parties as a way of having fun, winning money and being sociable with friends and new people. Affiliate sites offer players a huge amount of choice and give access to great promotions and bonus offers.
While there was some stigma around women gambling in the past, bingo was considered to be more of a fun pastime than an act of gambling, especially when compared to casino games such as poker or blackjack.
Game developers have used the popularity of bingo amongst women to their advantage, creating websites and apps for them to play bingo online. With feminine branding and names, they have made online bingo appeal to both experienced bingo players and women new to the game.
Advertisements for online bingo often also feature women and highlight the game as an easy, sociable way of winning money and having fun. Many games include features such as online chat rooms, helping to replicate the sociable environment of the traditional bingo halls, whilst also being convenient for busy women who want to fit in bingo games around their work, family and other commitments.
More women are becoming game developers
Having more female game developers within their business is helping many gaming companies understand how to target a female audience. While the number of female game developers stood at less than 9% in 2012, by 2015 this figure had grown to 15% and continues to increase year on year.
Game development has traditionally been a very male-dominated career choice, as women have had less encouragement to gain employment with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers from an early age. Issues with unequal pay and unwelcoming workplace culture have also had an impact. However, this is beginning to change.
With an increasing amount of women being hired by gaming companies, women have gained more influence and been able to input their ideas for games to be developed, therefore the types and genres of games women enjoy have become better represented.
While game companies still have a long way to go in terms of encouraging more women to take up careers within the gaming industry, the increasing number of female players perhaps highlights how female game developers have been able to have a growing influence in game development and design.
After all, women are likely to have the best understanding of the games that other women enjoy.
Women are more likely to promote games to their family and friends
Stereotypically, women are considered to be more “chatty” and share more within their social circles and the people around them. Evidence suggests that around 39% of them discover games through friends and family and a further 20% find them through social networking sites.
In comparison, over 27% of men discover new games through people they know and 26% through online review websites.
This suggests that gaming companies should really take an interest in feedback from their female customers, as this is likely to be the opinion they share with others.
More games featuring female characters
Another way that game companies target female audiences is by creating characters that they can relate to, which includes female characters in particular. However, the number of male character-led games still outweighs women-led games. For example, out of the top 100 grossing games in Google Play’s charts, 44% more of their app icons featured male over female characters.
One chart-topping game with a strong female lead is Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. This game was created with the interests of women in mind and was targeted primarily at a younger female audience. After seeing the success of this game, many other mobile game developers followed suit with similarly themed games.
The number of women who enjoy gaming is much higher than many people expect. As game choice increases and the influence that women have in the gaming industry improves, we can expect gaming companies to become better at targeting female audiences and see the number of women gamers continue to rise.
Visual journalist/Graduating student, University of Missouri-Columbia. Lover of everything in the gaming industry and an avid fan of all films!