The face of gaming is changing, literally. And there's no more apt time to talk about it than now, during Women's History Month.
When you look at current gamer statistics, the rise of the female gamer is apparent. In Asia, often considered the global capital of gaming and a region that accounts for almost half of the world's gaming revenue, 38% of the 1.33 billion gamers are women. In Europe, 45% of gamers are women, and in the U.S., women make up 41% of the gaming community. Across platforms – mobile, PC, and console – women make up 46% of gamers. For mobile gaming specifically, women's sessions last 25% longer than men's. Women overwhelmingly favor single-player mode games (86%), although Call of Duty and Fortnight have their fair share of female gamers – 36% and 34%, respectively.
One of the most interesting and perhaps surprising sub-segments of female gamers is mothers. A study from Activision Blizzard revealed that 71% of mothers between the ages of 25-54 play video games, and presumably, many of these women were gamers before they had children. While women game for many reasons – relaxation, socialization, entertainment, and to enjoy the competition – 45% of mom gamers feel that the activity helps them relate to their children.
Female gamers and esports
In esports, women are making inroads thanks to their dedication, persistence, and a handful of initiatives that foster diversity and inclusion. Women account for 29% of esports fans and play about 15 hours per week, which demonstrates their interest in gaming's competitive side.
The Dignitas Female Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team is one of the best around, having won back-to-back world championships in 2018 and 2019. Before being signed as Cloud9 White, the ladies on this team were known as MAJKL and won the FTW Summer Showdown Ignition Series event. In addition to Gen.G's all-women Fortnite team, Gen.G and Bumble sponsor an all-female Valorant team. There are also female-only esports tournaments, including the Girl Gamer Festival and W Series, a motorsport championship broadcasted on BBC.
Gen.G's all-women Fortnite team. Source: Gen.G
While pro-women gamers are getting the respect they deserve, many still face stigmas and continue to have to prove themselves in a male-dominated industry. One only has to look back a few years ago at Gamergate when thousands of people began harassing, threatening, and doxing prominent female gamers. The positive outcome of Gamergate can be seen in the rise of sponsorships and supportive initiatives, including Facebook and Twitch celebrating Women's History Month as well as Twitch's Women's Alliance. As young girls grow up and see others like them represented in gaming, we hope the change that we would all like to see will come sooner rather than later.
Should brands target women in-game?
Forward-thinking brands are already establishing solid partnerships within the gaming community. They recognize that a $174.9 billion market which is almost half women, is a lucrative place to be. Some 62% of female esports fans feel that brands don't market to them, which creates an incredible opportunity for companies. On one platform, they can connect with younger generations and gamer moms, 48% of whom are more engaged with brands and more likely to recommend brands to their family and friends.
Some brands are going down a traditional path, such as Johnson & Johnson's Carefree, L'Occitane, and Benefit Cosmetics, all sponsoring the GIRL GAMER Esports Festival. Other brands are taking advantage of the flexibility and creativity that gaming offers over other ad channels. As part of the Louis Vuitton and League of Legends 2019 partnership, creative director Nicolas Ghesquière created in-game prestige skins for female characters and designed a real capsule collection that sold out almost immediately. MAC also bridged the gap between the gaming and real worlds with its Honor of Kings makeup line.
League of Legends’ Senna featuring prestige skins designed by Louis Vuitton. Source: Riot Games
In games that allow for character or avatar personalization, such as Animal Crossing and Sims 4, MAC and Givenchy enabled users to add makeup looks to their online personas. Venus brought more inclusivity to Animal Crossing by giving players 250 skin tones and types to choose from. Alo Yoga launched a line of branded clothing, and Tatcha and Glossier promoted new products within the game.
It's not just beauty brands that should get in on games. Over 50% of women in a relationship who contribute half or more of the household income are the home's money managers. Women hold tremendous purchasing power, making everything from financial and banking decisions to which products and goods end up in the house. Last year, MasterCard became the first brand to advertise through in-game banners inside Riot Games' League of Legends. On the back of that success, more brands, including Spotify and Mercedes-Benz, will launch in-game ads within Riot Games' offering.
Female gamers are a valuable demographic for brands. The best approach for brands is to find an authentic way to engage with consumers and one that fits the nature of the specific game. Companies that decide to play and advertise in the gaming world can build a strong connection within the community through a thoughtful, female-focused communication strategy.