I have often told people that about half of gamers are female, citing a report by the Entertainment Software Association that said put the number at 41%. The invariable answer: “But what games are they playing?”
Yesterday, Nick Yee, co-founder of game analytics company Quantic Foundry, posted a report which specifies which kinds of games are dominated by women. He surveyed 270,000 players about their favorite game titles. According to her study, women make up about 70% of the audience for match 3 and family / farm simulation games. About half of casual puzzle and atmospheric exploration games are also played by women. The male-to-female ratio crumbles when it comes to first person shooters, tactical shooters, and racing games. At the bottom of the graph, just 2% of sports game players are women.
This is not revolutionary, but the study has some interesting surprises. “There’s a lot of variation not just between genres but within genres,” Yee told me. Thirty-six percent of fantasy MMORPG players are female, but only 26 percent of World of warcraft the players are women. On the other hand, Star Wars: The Old Republic has twice the average ratio of female players. Yee added in an email that “[role-playing game] Dragon Age: Inquisition was almost double the Western GAR group average (48% vs. 26%). These 48% are higher than the group averages of the next 5 genres in the ranking. “
Yee says there are plenty of opportunities to attract more female gamers to Western RPGs and other traditionally male-centric genres. The developers just need to figure out the secret sauce. To explain her findings, Yee cites her previous research on motivations between men and women: “Gender with more women emphasizes completion and fantasy (the 2 main motivations for women). And gender for men emphasizes competition and destruction (the 2 main motivations for men).
But in an email, he noted that this interpretation could be reductive. Gender and game motivation do not explain the gender distribution with complete precision. Yee adds that games with few female players often don’t feature female protagonists or involve playing online with strangers. “The low participation of female players in some genres may be a historical artefact of how motivations and presentation have been aggregated and marketed,” he said.
It may be that many more women would enjoy first person shooters or sports games if they were designed for women. Just think of the number of women who love Monitoring, which benefits from a high ratio of female to male playable characters, or Splatoon, a third-person shooter with customizable characters and unique gameplay. I predict that within a year or two, game companies that had focused exclusively on cultivating a male audience will find that having a large female player base will make their games healthier and more vibrant.