Study Shows Which Video Game Genres Women Play Most

I've often told people that about half of gamers are women, citing an Entertainment Software Association report that puts the number at 41 per cent. The invariable response: "But what games are they playing?"


Yesterday, Nick Yee, the co-founder of game analytics company Quantic Foundry, published a report that spells out which game genres are dominated by women. He surveyed 270,000 gamers about their favourite game titles. According to his study, women make up about 70 per cent of match-3 and family/farm simulation games' audiences. About half of casual puzzle and atmospheric exploration games are played by women, too. The gender ratio plummets when we get to first-person shooters, tactical shooters and racing games. At the bottom of the chart, a mere two per cent of sports game-players are women.

This is nothing ground-breaking, but the study has some interesting surprises. "There's a lot of variation not only between genres but within genres," Yee told me. Thirty-six per cent of fantasy MMORPG players are women, but only 26 per cent of World of Warcraft players are women. On the other hand, Star Wars: The Old Republic has two times the average ratio of female gamers. Yee added in an email that "[role-playing game] Dragon Age: Inquisition has almost double the group average of Western RPGs (48% vs. 26%). This 48% is higher than the group averages of the next 5 genres in the chart."

Yee says there's a lot of opportunity to attract more female players to Western RPGs and other traditionally male-centric genres. Developers just need to figure out the secret sauce. To explain his findings, Yee cites his previous research on the difference in motivations between men and women: "Genres with more women emphasise Completion and Fantasy (the top 2 motivations for women). And genres for men emphasise Competition and Destruction (the top 2 motivations for men)."

But in an email, he noted that this interpretation could be reductive. Genre and gaming motivation don't explain gender breakdown with complete accuracy. Yee adds that games with few female players often don't offer female protagonists or involve playing online with strangers. "Low female gamer participation in certain genres may be a historical artifact of how motivations and presentation have been bundled together and marketed," he said.

It may be the case that many more women would enjoy first-person shooters or sports games if they were designed with women in mind. Just think about how many women love Overwatch, which boasts a high male/female playable character ratio, or Splatoon, a third-person shooter with customisable characters and unique gameplay. I predict that, within the next year or two, games companies that had focused exclusively on cultivating a male audience will realise that having a large female player base will make their games healthier and more dynamic.


    I guess we were right to say that this didn't gel with our experiences when the last article came out.

    Its worth clicking through to the original article and reading the breakdowns in detail as they are quite interesting.

    I wish we had a study like this from 10 years ago that we could compare to but at the very least i'm positive that the numbers are well up from what they were back then and hopefully they continue to rise.

    It is a very interesting read. I do think it shows that "if you build it, they will come". There is a huge potential market just waiting for a games designer to cater to. It's good to see that some companies (eg Bioware with Dragon Age, and Blizzard with Overwatch) are already starting to catch on.

      It would be interesting to see if Overwatch actually has a higher number of women players. I don't really understand whats different about it that you think would make it have a higher percentage?

      Last edited 21/01/17 4:30 pm

        I had a look on the internet and found a few polls with low sample sizes. There was one linked on a Reddit with 2.5k responses where 10% total players were female.

        But of course it does always matter where the readership of the poll is and what their platform is etc.

        Last edited 21/01/17 4:42 pm

      I don't think you can really draw that conclusion from the data. What you can state is most woman play puzzle and SIM games and are only 18% of the 270,000 sampled.

      We would need earlier data to show what you are claiming to be true. Like it really doesn't show that at all.

      I understand your want for it to be true, and I'm assuming it would be to some extent, but growth would be slow and game companies may essentially be losing money over a number of years to break into that market (in genres which are less popular with the demographic). Now this is making generalizations, including ones based off that data, but that is how marketing and the market works.

      Last edited 21/01/17 4:38 pm

        They didn't give many examples, unfortunately, but they did suggest both Dragon Age: Inquisition and Ass Creed Syndicate were unusually popular with women for their genre of games and they let you play as women (and DA has a large female supporting cast). There aren't many games I can think of that otherwise let you-they didn't mention Dishonoured 2 or Mirror's Edge.

        Two data points isn't statistically useful, but since both games were commercially successful I'd think businesses probably should do more experimenting to see whether there are more sales to be made.

        Last edited 21/01/17 9:01 pm

    One part of the study that Cecilia doesn't mention is that the percentage of female gamers for them was only 18.5%, suggesting that the ESA numbers have been skewed all these years. The author of the study suggests that it might be a systematic sampling bias by the ESA which over-represents the casual market.

    I'd like to think that this report puts the "half of gamers are female" myth to bed once and for all. I've got nothing against female gamers but if you base a culture and economic strategy off false (or at least misleading) statistics you're going to have a bad time.

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