Changing the narrative
Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Gears of War, Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Battlefield 5 have all recently introduced strong leading female characters into the realm of role play and virtual reality games, illustrating a continuing shift away from the few – and often ‘damsel in distress’-type – female characters of the past. This shows that game developers are recognizing the need to create more diversity in games and cater for the growing female gamer segment.
But with women forming a near equal share of the gaming population, more needs to be done to engage the female gamer than just adding more playable female characters. For example, research shows that women enjoy a broader range of genres than men; particularly puzzle, simulation, and arcade. This divergence in favored genres is most notable on mobile, with 48% of women listing puzzle as their top pick.
The changing narratives, combined with the broader variety of games available, show that gaming companies are beginning to respond to genre and character preferences across their diverse audience. But what about some of the other differences between male and female gamers? This is something that gaming companies must understand and cater for if they want to appeal to this fast-growing customer group – not just in their game design, but also in their marketing and monetization strategies.
Our research with Newzoo shows that paying gamers are spending money across PC, console and mobile – with the rates of male and female paying players being closer than you might think, particularly on mobile (which make sense given the rise in female social gamers).
While the gender gap is closing in terms of the proportions of male and female players, there are still some important differences around player preferences – and the gender divide is still evident when it comes to platforms, genres, how players discover games and whether and why they choose to pay.
For example, among the players we surveyed, 23% of paying male players said they spend money to show appreciation for the developer. Female gamers are more likely to be influenced to pay by reward programs (23% vs 17%), with appreciation for developers a motivation for only 15%.
There are also some notable differences when it comes to what players are prepared to spend their money on. Take mobile gaming for instance – most mobile gamers who do spend money, spend on in-game purchases, making this an important revenue stream for mobile game developers.
When asked what in-game purchases they would buy, we found women were more likely to buy power-ups and time-savers, across every country we surveyed. On the other hand, male players were 20% more likely to buy expansion packs than female gamers.
Catering for the crowds
Successfully crafting an excellent game that delivers a superior playing experience AND sustained revenue is a much tougher job than it used to be. Game developers need now, more than ever, to take time to understand gamers’ playing habits, spending motivations, payment preferences and desired experiences. Understanding these nuances and how they differ across demographic groups helps developers create the high quality, custom experiences that today’s gamers expect.
While game developers certainly need to consider the differences between gender behavior and preferences, they should also be careful not to assume there is always a strong divide. Player gender is also just one of the many factors they should take into account; game genre, favored platforms and other demographic information (such as age) are all equally important elements to consider in order to create gaming experiences that resonate with as much of the intended audience as possible.
One thing is for sure – the female gaming population is growing fast, and has more power in the market than ever before. This is something that game developers must sit up and take notice of to make sure they secure their share of the opportunity ahead.
Download our latest report “What Turns Players Into Payers: Understanding the Gaming Payments Experience,” which reveals the payment preferences, motivations and experiences of gamers in the largest games markets in the world – or get in touch with our team to meet at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, August 21-23.