Looking deeper than the ‘48% of gamers are women’ stat

Let me make this clear: the point of this article isn’t to debunk the fact that more females are playing games, because they clearly are. My wife plays games. My sister plays games. My mom plays games. Female friends of mine play games. So there’s definitely a good amount of women playing video games.

I’m not disagreeing with the stat that female gamers now make up 48% of the game-playing population. I'm in no position to question such findings. But what I am trying to get across is perspective, a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.

It’s easy to take a stat like the one presented in the Entertainment Software Association’s 2014 report and make bold headlines like: “Women Now Make Up Almost Half of Gamers.” Technically, there’s nothing false about that statement. By the ESA’s report, it’s true.

But these type of broad stats can be dangerous. Again, perspective. Yes, it’s an increase from 2010. And women over 18-years-old apparently now represent a larger portion of the U.S. game-playing population than boys under 18. Again, not arguing that. But, perspective.

What these types of stats and statements do is have you overlook some of the finer details that would apply to the sensible business aspect of video games. With video games, it’s a business — that’s my perspective when writing about them. Every decision made, at least by the larger publishers and platform-holders, is a calculated business move. Even the decisions that seem good-natured have some sort of ulterior motive. Usually, that's to maximize profit. It's important to emphasize profit here and not sales or total revenue because the time put into the development of a game may lead to more sales, but less profit.

female gamers

Image Courtesy of: Theesa.com

When it comes to video games as a business, it’s important to maintain perspective and look beyond the glossy “48 percent of gamers are women” stat. There’s much more to that number that one must understand before attempting to use it when your favorite publisher doesn’t include female characters in a certain assassin game. Or when another company tells you that if you want female characters in a game, it must translate into sales — even though they really mean profit. Again, video games are a business.

And right now, despite 48% of the business being filled with female consumers, it can sometimes be unclear where these females are playing. According to a survey from Nielsen Holdings NV, women gamers in the U.S. are likely to play games on mobile devices, personal computers and Nintendo’s Wii console. Assassin’s Creed Unity may be coming to PC, but let’s not kid ourselves — Ubisoft’s primary focus is on the console player base. And even though Ubisoft executive Alain Corre acknowledges that “couples” are playing games like Assassin’s Creed, he also notes that “it’s still predominantly purchased by males.” Starting to understand why a company may opt to allocate its resources elsewhere?

Again, I’m not trying to say that females don’t play games on consoles. I’m just looking at it from a different perspective. We see that 48% of gamers are females. CEOs — the big wigs who ultimately make the decisions regarding your favorite games — see an entire breakdown as to what gender is buying what type of game on what specific platform.

My mother plays Candy Crush. She also bought a Wii when it was all the rage. Heck, I've never seen her even turn on the Wii — I don't even think she knows how to. She was one of those people who just went out and bought one because it was talked about on the morning news. By the ESA's vague statistic, she is "a gamer" — a part of that 48%. But will she be going out and buying the next Call of Duty? No.

playing candy crush

Photo Courtesy: BBC

The problem is, the ESA isn’t clear in its research. They say the results are gathered from “more than 2,200 nationally representative households,” but they don’t give enough specifics in their findings. 48% of gamers may be female, but if the majority of that are middle-aged moms playing mobile games like Candy Crush and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (and there’s nothing wrong with that — even I enjoy a good red-carpet adventure ), then can we really be upset when a developer chooses to still cater towards a male audience?

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely believe that females play console games. My good friend's girlfriend is one of them. She's played Assassin's Creed: Black Flag and I haven't. I know a girl who just went out and purchased a PS4 so that she can play the new Silent Hills (P.T.). I think there's plenty of women who enjoy the fact that there are female pilots in Titanfall, and that they don't just serve as eye candy. Do I think 48% of Titanfall players are women? Well, I'm not going to answer that because I don't have any facts, and that's the problem.

I'm not questining the overall accuracy of the ESA's findings, but it's not enough to simply say 48% of gamers are girls. I'm simply asking for more details — a more specific breakdown — so that we can have a little more information and approach the current situation in gaming with a better perspective.

If you would like to further discuss this topic, you can find me on Twitter: @Matt_GZ