Everyone plays games. This means that it has never been more important for companies working in games to appeal to women. But when it comes to women playing games, too many don’t think companies are catering to their interests. Newzoo and Google found that “the majority (60%) of women who play mobile games think that 30% or fewer of mobile games are made for women.”
So, how do we, as an industry, appeal to the female games market? Here are my thoughts on why and how mobile games companies can value women in games.
Why are women such an important mobile gaming demographic?
The biggest reason games businesses should cater to women is, quite simply, that it’s good for business. A study by Google Play and NewZoo found that 43% of women play mobile games more than five times a week while only 38% of men play that often.
Female gamers are not just set to outnumber men, they are also mobile’s most valuable players. Research has found that 4.5% of women spend in-game, compared to only 3.3% of men. This means every female player brings a total value of $1.57, while men are worth $1.09.
Why do women play?
Women play games to destress and be social. They usually play in bed, in the bathroom and at home and use mobile games as a source of quick distraction from real life worries. The largest segment of female game enthusiasts, 36%, are gamers who only game when they have time to spare or at a social event, changing their context of play significantly.
Which genres do women prefer?
The previous point matters a lot to game developers because women’s preference for “snackier” gaming affects the games they like the most. DeltaDNA’s research found that “women have a strong preference for puzzle games while men prefer strategy and action games.”
Around 76% of mobile puzzle gamers are women, while they only make up 26% of strategy and 23% of action players. Casino games were found to be gender neutral. Newzoo dug a bit more to find that 48% of women list puzzle as their top genre on mobile.
What does this mean when it comes to catering mobile games for the female demographic? One conclusion would be to make more puzzle games for women. But another conclusion is that women do not identify as gamers as readily as men do. This means that other genres could be marketed successfully at women, but that the language used to promote them needs to change to cut through.
What are the best ways to design for women?
Overly sexualized female characters and violent sequences ostracize female audiences. Women want to play games where at least some of the characters look like them, therefore, using female character shots in app store icons, screenshots and other imagery can help a lot, especially when women feel like they can identify with the character.
It is also important to pay attention to how different aspects of the game portray women. How do characters talk to and about women? Are there a variety of female characters or is there just one type? “If we find something in which we’re treated with equal respect … we’re going to tell our friends to play it. Loudly. Aggressively. We’ll do the advertising for you.” said writer Becky Chambers on The Mary Sue.
Designers need to question their assumptions when making games for women and listen very carefully to their needs in order to succeed. But if they do ask those questions, they can accrue organic word-of-mouth benefits that may arguably be harder to generate with a predominantly male audience.
How are women best included on design teams?
There is one pertinent issue at the core of catering to the female market: women are underrepresented in the gaming industry. Only 27.8% of the gaming industry is female, transgender or another gender identity. When only 23% of women feel that there is equal treatment and opportunity for all in the games industry, it’s no wonder that not a lot of women are seeking work in the field.
One thing is clear: If studios and publishers want to tap into the riches of the female games market they need to hire more women.
Women are clearly a crucial part of the mobile gaming ecosystem. They form an enormous part of the player base, are key spenders and they play some of the main titles that drive the industry forward.
However, the sector doesn’t do enough to cater specifically for women. Low levels of women making games, a failure to market games in a way that works for women and outdated design practices alienate players.
The industry should, therefore, change the way it approaches women, design games for them and market those games to appeal to them. In doing so, they could unlock their true value in the years to come.