Females: The Hidden eSports Audience - Part 1
TNL Take: I've been in the Gaming industry for over a decade now and there's a phrase that still hasn't gone away: "Boys In The Basement".
It's the continued stereotype that gamers are just kids drinking Dew and screaming MOM from the bottom floor.
Yet 75% of Xbox owners are of legal drinking age - as is the eSports audience - and almost half of them make $100,000+. 51% of Xbox owners have kids.
Those aren't boys.
While this stereotype will hopefully change with the continued growth and investment within eSports, there's another stereotype that could be potentially worse: Women don't play or watch video games.
Which couldn't be further from the truth.
A few years back, the IAB released a study that said that women made up 52% of the gaming audience, up from 49% from 2 years prior.
6 years ago when I led Brand Advertising for Social Gaming company Zynga, I said "the 40 year old Mom is the new hardcore gamer".
All the data is there yet females participating within eSports and from an audience perspective are still minimized.
2017 is the year this will start to change.
/01 The Female eSports Audience
What's the real Female eSports audience? I analyzed 8 different research studies and found the following:
By the end of 2017, the Female eSports audience could be almost 30% of the total.
/02 Overwatch Will Help
The other day I was eating at a local NYC chain that's one of those "yoga-pants-and-quinoa" joints (I was literally the only one not coming from yoga apparently).
As I began to dig into my organic chicken and kale, I overheard the table of 4 women next to me chatting about the latest Overwatch patch.
I was floored.
Naturally I began talking to them about why they liked Overwatch. Outside of the main reason being it's a fun game to play; Overwatch's graphics are uniquely suited for the Female aesthetic.
As almost all Female-only teams are primarily First Person Shooters - Call of Duty or Counter-Strike - I'd look to Overwatch to continue to drive Female engagement and viewership within eSports.
/03 Female Only Leagues
- Commentator Jennifer Pichette started an all Female Call of Duty League
- YouTuber Zoie Burgher is starting her own Female eSports team
- Missharvey is the founder of all Female team CLG Red, which is part of Counter Logic Gaming
- Skylla is a 7-tournament Counter-Strike league which includes both Male and Female teams
However I'm not sure this is the answer.
In 2013, ESPN said the majority of the WNBA audience - 66% - was Men. The WNBA may not have even survived this long without significant investment from the NBA.
The most recent Women's World Cup Final between the US and Japan was watched by 61% Men.
/04 What's The Answer?
I wish life was that simple, that black and white. But it's not.
I'm not sure if there is a simple answer but I believe 2 things are critical:
Visibility: Maya Moore, considered to be the current Michael Jordan of the WNBA who also happens to be sponsored by Brand Jordan, wrote a great article on Women in Sports titled (In)Visibility.
She writes that her exposure at UConn winning 2 National Championships in 4 years was significantly greater than after she went #1 in the WNBA draft and continued her career there.
Marketing: Just look at the visuals or the Rap-Rock/Hip-Hop track used in Video Game commercials and you can see they're clearly marketing to the Male audience - although it's estimated that women make up a higher % of the game playing audience and definitely on Mobile.
To keep and grow the Female game playing and viewing audience, the Marketing at its core needs to change.
I still think this Gears of War commercial featuring a cover of Tears For Fears "Mad World" by Gary Jules is one of the best ever made and easily appeals to both sexes.
/05 Female Focused Brands
While there are some brands that appeal to both sexes - it's primarily Male driven Brands.
I believe that 2017 will see the first of hopefully many Female focused Brands enter eSports.
And if there's 1 Brand I want to see invest - it's Dove. They're forward thinking and I love their theme of "real beauty".
In Part 2, I'll have a chat with 2 Women in the space from 2 different sides of the Gaming and eSports spectrum.