Gender misrepresentation, misogyny, sexism, threatening behaviour towards women… the world of gaming has been incredibly problematic when it comes to female gamers. Who can forget the toxic Gamgergate movement where gamer Eron Gjoni’s blog post about his ex-girlfriend triggered a global stream of abusive and anti-feminist sentiment against women in gaming? The fact is, gaming in 2020 must progress towards a more inclusive model. Female gamers make up a huge proportion of the gamer demographic – 46% of gamers are women – and they are a voice to be heard (source: Newzoo).
More and more brands are leading the way in the battle for inclusivity, recognising female gamers as an important audience. Indeed, there’s a real feeling that, in 2020, the tide is turning, with Edelman calling it ‘the year of women in gaming’ (source: Edelman). So, how can brands reach female gamers in a way that feels authentic? It’s all about embracing and celebrating women in all sectors, from game development to influencer campaigns to esports activity.
Gaming gets inclusive
It’s no secret that more and more consumers across the globe are taking a keen interest in the social conscience of brands. In a global Edelman report, 64% of buyers identified as belief-driven, meaning they’d boycott or switch from a brand if it didn’t align with their values. In the gaming sector, diversity and inclusivity need to be top priorities.
More and more brands are taking this into account. EA has pledged its continued support of the HeForShe movement and, as part of their Diversity and Inclusion policy, stated: “we will continue building awareness of gender equality throughout our industry and among our player communities” (source: EA Corporate Responsibility). Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, is also incredibly vocal about the community, saying that gaming is “for everyone” and must be a safe space (source: The Verge). Also, in terms of embracing female professionals within the gaming industry, brands are starting to put women at the forefront. In Japan, Sony launched its first workplace nursery to helps its 80% female Business Operations’ workforce. The development of Google’s Stadia platform, one of our previously mentioned gaming trends in 2020, is being led by Jade Raymond while Jane McGonigal, Creative Director at Avant Game, is delivering positive gaming experiences with SuperBetter, a game she authored and designed to help those with mental health issues (source: Edelman).
All of these brands are giving women a place within the gaming sector, showcasing the important role they play in the industry. The key takeaway? Brands should pledge to embrace diversity – but they must act on their promises if they’re to be trusted by consumers.
Related Read: Keeping it Real: How to Achieve Brand Authenticity
Change the conversation
Alongside women making waves within the top gaming brands, there are also a number of female gaming influencers shaking up the industry. Streamers like KittyPlaysGames, KatGunn and Sssniperwolf are breaking gender stereotypes, playing games seen as inherently masculine, from PUBG to Call of Duty to Grand Theft Auto.
Sadly, these influencers, alongside everyday female gamers, are still having to play games that are designed with men in mind, meaning the representation of women is often skewed. Not only are female characters still highly sexualised, they’re also more often than not, merely background characters in the game narrative. According to research by Feminist Frequency, at 2019’s E3 Expo, a mere 5% of the games presented had a female protagonist, a lower percentage than the previous 2 years (source: Feminist Frequency research via Wired).
In 2020, the situation needs to change; luckily many brands recognise this and are tackling the situation through female-first games. In 2019, Wolfenstein: Youngblood featured 2 strong female protagonists while Gears 5, the latest game in the Gears of War franchise, based their narrative around a female hero for the first time. Equally, in 2020, Modus Games are set to release their game Cris Tales which follows the adventures of Crisbell and Ubisoft are releasing Gods & Monsters with a fully customisable hero, Fenyx, whose gender players can choose. So, it appears as though many brands have got the memo and are progressing towards a more inclusive model for 2020.
Make it mobile
As our previous blog post on mobile gaming proves, mobile gamers will play an important role in 2020 gaming marketing. And since the average gender split of mobile gamers is 49% male to 51% female, it’s clear that female mobile gamers are an audience not be ignored (source: Tech Crunch). So what are women playing on their mobiles? Well, according to insights from Newzoo, the most prominent type of female gamer is the ‘Time-Filler’, playing the types of games often downloaded on mobile (source: Newzoo Consumer Insights), like the hit game Candy Crush – which had 270M players in 2019 and a predominantly female user base (source: The Guardian). Attracting this casual audience will be key for mobile gaming brands throughout 2020.
However, Newzoo Consumer Insights also reveal that the ‘Cloud-Gamer’ (someone who likes high-quality games but wants them to be free) is the 2nd most notable type of female gamer. So with new cloud-gaming technology meaning competitive, high quality games like Call of Duty are finding their way onto mobile phones, the audience demographics behind these games are likely to change. According to research by Earnest in 2018, male gamers were 3x more likely to make gaming purchases than their female counterparts. But, as Newzoo notes, with the rise of technology like Stadia, there’ll be less need to make expensive console purchases. Female gamers who fall into the ‘Cloud-Gamer’ group are thus bound to become a more prominent audience across a range of games newly accessible on the cloud, since they’ll have to pay less to play these top quality games.
At the moment, there are no definitive statistics to show how audience segmentation will be affected by cloud-gaming. But the change is coming and it’s likely that brands will have to adapt accordingly to incorporate a broader audience.
According to Nielsen, female gamers enjoy the community aspect of gaming, more than their male counterparts. It’s no wonder, then, that gaming communities are spreading across the internet, like Women in Gaming and Team Kitty. A great way to engage female gamers is to provide them with opportunities to meet other gamers in an inclusive environment. Brands should take inspiration from Bumble – the dating, networking and friend-finding app that puts women first. In 2019, Bumble, in collaboration with Forbes #6 top esports organisation Gen G, added a new gamers badge to their BFF section. The idea was to help female gamers connect with other gamers based on whether they view or play games. This was a clever move that widened the reach of an already highly-popular social app.
Bumble and Gen G also created an all-female esports team, providing young female esports players with much-needed role-models. Both Bumble and Gen G are set to gain with many celebrating their partnership, like Forbes contributor Kim Elsesser who wished them luck in “trailblazing a new path for women” (source: Forbes).
Who says esports is just for the boys?
Of course, many feel that there shoudn’t need to be female-only esports teams, since there’s no excuse for gender discrimination in a technology-driven sport. Nevertheless, figures suggest that esports was very much a male-dominated market in 2019; the global average of esports fans was around 22% female and 78% male (source: Nielsen). However, in China and Korea, two of the leaders in the gaming industry, the percentage of female fans is notably higher (30% and 32% respectively) (source: Nielsen). This higher female percentage in these markets is a sign of things to come; women are beginning to play a much bigger role in esports.
So, what does this mean for brands? Brands should support female esports events, team and competitions in the same way that they’d approach male esports activity. For example, in 2019, tech giants like Logitech G and Alibaba Cloud and the global beauty brand Sephora sponsored Girl Gamer, a notable esports competition which toured the globe. However, there really needs to be more integration in the world of esports itself, with event organisers and leagues providing more opportunities for women to compete at a high-level.
Related Read: Esports: The New Sport on the Scene
So, with 2020 bringing in a new decade and plenty of new developments in the world of gaming, it’s time for a fresh start. Brands should step away from the stereotypes and view women as notable gamers and gaming consumers. For more information, make sure to download our latest guide on all the latest gaming marketing trends.