The global gaming market has been undergoing significant transformation over the past 20 years, as more females are becoming gamers, thereby shifting the typically male-dominated market. As mobile gaming and social media gaming becomes big business, females are driving new forms of demand for games. Female games uptake is adding to the growth of the global gaming market, driving up the value of gaming start-ups able to attract large audiences from both sexes, as well as helping companies such as the UK’s King Entertainment go public. However, female tastes in games do not conform to traditional gender expectations, meaning it may not be as easy to target this rising segment with specific offerings. Nonetheless, start-ups that tailor offerings to female players will offer a strong niche when looking for exits.
A new study, released in August 2014 by the Entertainment Software Association, a US game industry trade group, has revealed that adult women now make up the largest demographic in the gaming industry. Women over 18 constitute 36% of the gaming population, followed by adult men at 35%, and teenage boys trailing behind at 17%. Overall, more people are playing more games, across a variety of genres and more platforms, with social games on mobile and casual games on PCs emerging as a leading trend. Industry analysts say the trend seen in the USA is one likely to be reflected in many countries, especially those where more women are using smartphones.
The growth of female gamers is good news for advertisers. The initial point of entry for many women to the world of games is social games, played on social media such as Facebook. Because gamers are locked into their own virtual world, and 100% focused, they will not shut down the game, offering advertisers a reliable audience. The opportunities for marketers to capture that audience are varied, from pre-roll advertising to game sponsorship and in-game advertising, in the form of integrating the brand into the game. Gamers appear to appreciate brand placement of this type because it heightens the realism of the game.
Mobile game developers such as Anglo-Swedish King Digital Entertainment Plc., Glu Mobile Inc., and Finland’s Supercell Oy are actively targeting female audiences, according to an August 2014 report in the Wall Street Journal. King Digital’s ‘Candy Crush Saga’ and Supercell’s ‘Hay Day’ are both popular with women, while Glu’s ‘Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’, which places its largely female players in the high-heeled shoes of the reality-television star, has become a recent top seller on global app stores.
The growth of female gamers, who offer more attractive advertising targets than their male counterparts, suggests a signal of changes to come. Games developers will have to become more attuned to the demands of female players, while ensuring they are not ghettoised according to outdated gender stereotypes. It also indicates future growth will involve more multiplayer gaming options and significant expansion in the mobile games sector. As the volume of mobile subscribers increases globally, so too are the numbers of female gamers set to rise.
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