Gaming Is Now Equally Distributed Between Males and Females, But the Supply Side Still Needs To Catch Up
Gaming has been travelling towards a more gender-equal distribution in 2019. While mobile gaming has traditionally been well-represented among females, PC and console gaming have historically skewed male. This is has changed dramatically in the last year.
Between Q1 and Q4 2019, female representation among gamers grew from 44% to 52% on PC and from 33% to 50% on console. Gaming as an activity is now gender equal (and skews more female than it used to in terms of mobile gaming).
This is important on multiple levels.
The obvious one is the morality of engendering equality. However, the commercial importance of this message is that much of the gamer penetration growth (or offsetting of the decline, where applicable) came from an increased penetration rate among females in 2019:
- Between Q1 and Q4 2019, overall console gaming penetration declined slightly from 27% to 25%. It grew among females from 17% to 22%, while declining among males from 36% to 27%.
- Overall mobile gamer penetration grew from 42% to 56%, with females growing their share from 43% to 61%, while penetration among males only grew from 40% to 49%.
- PC gaming increased overall from 26% to 27%, with a 2% increase among females and 0% increase among males.
In short, female adoption of gaming has been the key driving force behind the evolution of gaming penetration rates in 2019. The adoption rates of gaming are growing (or offsetting decline in the case of console games) – thanks to the segment which is arguably least catered to.
Herein lies an opportunity.
Currently-available games catalogues are still more male oriented than they should be, compared to the gender distribution of gaming overall. MIDiA tracks engagement with 25 key games franchises. Only two of those (Super Mario and Pokémon titles) skew female in terms of their user bases.
If games companies want to capitalise on females’ increased gaming adoption, they need to pay more attention to their preferences, attitudes and gaming behaviours. Though most games are travelling in the right direction, some are doing better than others.
Sports games such as Madden and NBA2K have a particular opportunity for growth within the female segment:
- 52% of American football viewers in the US are female, as found by MIDiA’s Q4 2019 survey. Yet, only 30% of Madden NFL (the flagship American football game) fans are female.
- 44% of US basketball viewers are female. But only 36% of NBA2K players are female.
With games such as GTA (45% female) Call of Duty (45% female), Fortnite (45% female), and Halo (49% female), there is absolutely no reason why sports games should be skewing male in terms of gender distribution.
So how do we close the gap? Answering this fully is slightly outside of the scope of this blog post (please get in touch if you’d like more data-backed evidence, strategies and tactics on making this happen); however, here are a couple of pointers to get the conversation started.
- It is not enough to simply include female characters into traditionally male-developed and male-oriented games and expect a huge dent in gender distribution of the title. It is a start, but it is not enough to fully capitalise on the opportunity. For example, FIFA introduced female national teams as early as 2016, but the fact that female players couldn’t compete against male teams somewhat curbed the added value of this endeavour, leaving the move to feel more like ‘ticking a PR box’ than actually striving to engage females in the overall game. FIFA cited willingness to stay true to authenticity of the sport; nevertheless, it doesn’t shy away from enabling absurd matchups with Cristiano Ronaldo on each side, or playing the same teams against each other. Furthermore, certain modes such as FIFA Ultimate Team still don’t include women.
- E-sports have a good chance of normalising and capitalising on equal gender distribution in gaming, especially as/when competing across genders becomes a standard.
- Taking inspiration from games that have worked well with female audiences and including certain aspects of these into more heavily male-skewed titles can help. Whether it is a specific game mode, female character celebrity skins or even emojis, there are a plethora of aspects to be incorporated fully into the default nature of games to attract and increase engagement from a broader variety of players.
Arguably Nintendo Switch has been doing a great job of attracting female audiences (the latest titles of both female-skewing franchises, Super Mario and Pokémon, are both Switch exclusives).
It is high time to embrace the growing female segment within gaming. If you are not already on this journey, you are arguably late already – while others will grow engagement at your expense. However, as they say, better late than never.
While this blog post cites data from the US, MIDiA also has data on the above for the UK, Canada and Australia, including female attitudes and behaviours across gaming, music, TV and sports. Please get in touch if you’d like to talk more.