Beyond 50/50: Breaking Down The Percentage of Female Gamers by Genre

By |2018-06-14T13:04:44+00:00January 19th, 2017|Analytics, Video Games|125 Comments

You’ve probably heard the often-quoted statistic that about half of video gamers are women, illustrating how gaming is now a mainstream activity enjoyed by both men and women. This finding comes from the yearly ESA report, and has fluctuated between 38% and 48% in the past decade—currently estimated at 41% in the 2016 report.

Oddly, this statistic can have the exact opposite intended effect. Some gamers argue that the study bundles gamers across platforms and genres, and is thus unrepresentative of the “real” PC/console gamers. Or that the apparent gender parity means there are no longer gender biases in game design.  A game dev we recently chatted with mentioned that some designers she works with still assume that only 5% of core gamers are women, and that the quoted 41% of women are primarily casual gamers.

This statistic can have the exact opposite intended effect.

By bundling across platforms and genres, this 41% statistic doesn’t surface how the percentage of female gamers does or does not vary across genres, or how large that variance is. Using survey data from over 270,000 gamers on the specific game titles they enjoy playing, we’ve put together some findings on the percentage of gamers in different genres that are female.

Data from the Gamer Motivation Profile

The Gamer Motivation Profile allows gamers to take a 5-minute survey to get a personalized report of their gaming motivations, and see how they compare with other gamers. Over 270,000 gamers worldwide have taken this survey. The 12 motivations that are measured in our model were identified via statistical analysis of how gaming motivations cluster together.

See how you compare with other gamers. Take a 5-minute survey and get your Gamer Motivation Profile.

Alongside gaming motivations, we also collect data on demographic variables. In our full sample, 18.5% are female gamers. We also ask gamers to list specific game titles/franchises that they enjoy playing (up to 9). By sampling gamers who mention a specific game title/franchise, we can generate a profile of that game’s engaged audience. Note that the data we have is limited to the favorite games listed by a gamer–they are likely playing more games than they are able to list, but this constraint holds true for all respondents in our data, whether male or female.

The delta between the ESA’s estimated 41% female gamers and our 18.5% is important, but how it impacts the data depends on your interpretation of the cause of that delta. The ESA worked with Ipsos to survey 4,000 US households, but they don’t provide any details on their sampling methods (e.g., phone or web survey?) or who got counted as a gamer–e.g., if playing Solitaire last year counts.

What we do know is their sample has a large proportion of casual gamers. In their 2015 report, their most frequent gamers are most likely to be playing social games (31%) and puzzle games (30%). Note that this is their “most frequent” gamers. We can assume that their less frequent gamers are even more likely to play casual titles. So a large portion of their sample may not regularly play AAA titles at all.

Our sample is biased towards core gamers–people who would click on something labeled a Gamer Motivation Profile. But when we’re drilling down to a specific game (like Diablo III in the Action RPG genre), the 41% in the ESA sample is not a meaningful benchmark because a large portion of that sample was likely not playing a AAA game to begin with.

The self-selected sampling is very much a limitation of the methodology, so we do try to make it clear how we collected the data to allow readers to interpret the findings in the proper context.

There are a lot of seemingly basic questions in gaming that we don’t have data for. For example, it’s strange that we don’t know the gender base rates of AAA genres. This is a reflection of how hard it is to sample gamers. In other established domains, we could apply weights afterwards to balance samples, but in gaming, no one knows the gender weights to apply for specific genres. And how would anyone sample a truly representative pool of Shooter gamers (for example) to begin with? So a big part behind our decision to publish this data was to start this conversation–“Here’s our methods. Here’s the data we found. It’s not perfect, but there’s almost no data on this out there.”

As with many nascent research questions, researchers will slowly triangulate on the consensus. As we overlay multiple sources, we’ll get a better sense of what is consistent and what isn’t. So for example, even though the ESA estimates 41% female gamers and we see 18.5% in our sample (with the bias towards core gamers), the underlying findings are consistent–the game genres that the most frequent gamers in the ESA report are playing are exactly the game genres we find have the highest % of female gamers.

We can also spot-check where data is available. For example, Tekken has published a 23% female gamer estimate, and it is 21% in our data. League of Legends published 10% 4 years ago, and it is 14% in our data.

The Genres We Analyzed

Game genres are incredibly messy things. They evolve and overlap and hybridize over time. In many well-established genres, subgenres are common. This means that asking gamers to respond to genre labels yields messy data.

We decided to take an approach based on specific game titles. In our analysis, we manually picked popular game exemplars to create genre groupings. For each game, we calculated the proportion of its gamers that are female. And then we calculated the genre group average. So for example, when we say High Fantasy MMOs, we specifically mean the group average of gamers who enjoy playing World of Warcraft, Rift, Lord of the Rings Online, EverQuest II, and The Elder Scrolls Online.

In our analysis, we manually picked popular game exemplars to create genre groupings.

Each genre we analyzed contained between 3-5 game titles. The median sample size for each game title was 1,184. And the median sample size for each genre was 4,657.

  • Action Adventure: Uncharted (series), Infamous (series), Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Rise of the Tomb Raider.
  • Action RPG: Diablo III, Dark Souls III, Torchlight (series).
  • Atmospheric Exploration: Journey, ABZU, Gone Home, Dear Esther.
  • Casual Puzzle: Angry Birds, 2048, Cut The Rope.
  • City Building: Cities:Skylines, SimCity (series), Tropico (series).
  • First-Person Shooter: Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Battlefield 4, Halo 5: Guardians, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Team Fortress 2.
  • Grand Strategy: Europa Universalis IV, Crusader Kings II, Stellaris.
  • Interactive Drama: The Walking Dead (series), The Wolf Among Us, Tales From the Borderlands.
  • Japanese RPG: Fire Emblem Fates, Bravely Default (series), Tales of Zestiria, Pokemon Sun and Moon.
  • Family/Farm Sim: The Sims (series), Harvest Moon (series), Animal Crossing (series), Story of Seasons, Stardew Valley.
  • Match 3: Candy Crush Saga, Bejeweled (series), Farm Heroes Saga.
  • MMOs (High Fantasy): World of Warcraft, Rift, Lord of the Rings Online, EverQuest II, The Elder Scrolls Online.
  • MMOs (Sci-Fi): Star Trek Online, EVE Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
  • MOBA: League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, DoTA 2, StarCraft II.
  • Open World: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Watch Dogs, Far Cry 4, Grand Theft Auto V, Batman: Arkham Knight.
  • Platformer: Ori and the Blind Forest, Rayman Legends, Super Mario (series).
  • Racing: Need For Speed (series), Gran Turismo (series), Forza (series).
  • Sandbox: Minecraft, Terraria, Dwarf Fortress.
  • Sports: FIFA (series), NBA 2K (series), Madden NFL (series).
  • Survival Roguelike: Darkest Dungeon, FTL: Faster Than Light, Don’t Starve.
  • Tactical Shooter: Squad, ARMA 3, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Seige.
  • Turn-Based Strategy: Civilization V, XCOM 2, Endless Legend.
  • Western RPG: Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Fallout 4, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.

Genre Averages of Female Gamers Range From 2% to Almost 70%

Here’s a chart of all the genre group averages in descending order. The percentages listed refer to the proportion of gamers within each genre that are female. So for example, the 69% for Match 3 games means that of the gamers who mentioned a Match 3 game in the data, 69% of them were female. The 69% does NOT mean that 69% of female gamers play Match 3 games.

The percentages listed refer to the proportion of gamers within each genre that are female.

It bears pointing out that most gamers play a variety of games across genres, and a high participation rate in the chart doesn’t mean that gamers (whether male or female) only play that genre.

1) Match 3 and Family/Farm Sim Gamers Are Most Likely To Be Female.

In fact, these two genres are head and shoulders above any other genre in terms of percentage of female gamers. The next highest genre is a full 27 percentage points lower in its proportion of female gamers.

2) Tactical Shooter and Sports Game Players Are Least Likely To Be Female.

Sports Games (with an average 2% of female gamers) have the smallest proportion of female gamers of all the genres we analyzed. Although the percentage of women in both Shooter categories is low, there is a noticeably lower proportion of women in Tactical Shooters compared with First-Person Shooters (4.3% vs. 7.2%).

3) The Variance in Female Gamer Percentage Across Genres is Large.

The genre averages range from 2% to almost 70%. This is a 35-fold difference, and illustrates why an overall statistic for all gamers (ignoring genre) can be misleading and confusing.

This is a 35-fold difference, and illustrates why an overall statistic for all gamers (ignoring genre) can be misleading and confusing.

4) World of Warcraft is an Outlier Among High Fantasy MMOs.

23% of World of Warcraft gamers are women. This is substantially lower than the group average (36%). A lot of game researchers (Nic and I included) focused on studying WoW as an exemplar of online gaming, but it looks like WoW was not only an outlier in terms of market success, but also in terms of its demographics relative to other games in the genre.

5) High Fantasy MMO > Sci-Fi MMO

As we assembled the original MMO genre, we noticed a difference between High Fantasy and Sci-Fi MMOs, and decided to split the genre. This highlights the gender disparity in appeal based purely on thematic elements. High Fantasy MMOs have more than twice the percentage of female gamers compared with Sci-Fi gamers (36% vs. 16%).

This highlights the gender disparity in appeal based purely on thematic elements.

6) Star Wars: The Old Republic is Skewing the Genre High.

SWTOR has almost double the Sci-Fi MMO genre average of female gamers (29% vs. 16%). Without SWTOR, the genre average would be 11.3%, at which point the group average for High Fantasy MMOs would be more than 3 times higher than Sci-Fi MMOs.

7) Assassin’s Creed and Dragon Age are Also Notable Outliers.

Among Open World games, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is noticeably higher than the genre average (27% vs. 14%). And among Western RPGs, Dragon Age: Inquisition is also much higher than the group average (48% vs. 26%).

8) Genre Findings Align with Primary Motivation Differences.

In a previous blog post, we compared the primary motivations of male vs. female gamers. Much of those differences seem to underlie the current genre findings. For example, genres with more women emphasize Completion and Fantasy (the top 2 motivations for women). And genres for men emphasize Competition and Destruction (the top 2 motivations for men).

The differences in primary motivations between male vs. female gamers seem to underlie the current genre findings.

9) Highest Percentage of Non-Binary Gender Gamers in Exploration and Family/Farm Sims.

The baseline of non-binary gender gamers in our full sample is 1.1%. In the current analysis, the genres that had the most non-binary gender gamers were Atmospheric Exploration (3.8%), Family/Farm Sim (3.2%), Casual Puzzle (2.7%), and Sandbox games (2.3%).

The Opportunity Space is Larger Than It Appears

The data hints at how none of these numbers are set in stone or represent some kind of hard ceiling. Note that variations within the same genre can be much larger than variations between genres. For example, Dragon Age: Inquisition has double the genre average (48% vs. 26%). In fact, this 48% is higher than the next 5 genre averages. This means that the opportunity to attract female gamers may be a lot larger than what the chart is showing, especially if you’re the first ones to figure it out in your genre.

Variations within the same genre can be much larger than variations between genres.

It’s also easy to read the genres in the chart and pin the cause solely on gender differences in gaming motivations–e.g., women simply don’t like X or Y game mechanic, but there may be a lot more going on. For example, games on the bottom of the chart tend to not have female protagonists, tend to involve playing with strangers online, and tend to have a lot of rapid 3D movement which can lead to motion sickness (which women are more susceptible to). Low female gamer participation in certain genres may be a historical artifact of how motivations and presentation have been bundled together and marketed.

As we saw in our analysis of Idle Clicker games, established genres are ripe for deconstruction in potentially fruitful ways. The most important takeaway is not to conflate what the numbers currently show with what the numbers could be.

Spot Other Interesting Differences?

If you spot any other interesting differences in the chart or data, tell us about it in the comments.

Stay up to date with our findings by subscribing to our newsletter!

About the Author:

Nick is the co-founder and analytics lead of Quantic Foundry. He combines social science and data science to understand gamer behavior in large-scale game data.


  1. Rosa M Martey January 19, 2017 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    Surprising to me was the low numbers of women in sandbox games. I’m thinking especially about Second Life, which I assumed would skew high on women. Or does Second Life not count as a sandbox game? And there’s then Minecraft, which I would be curious to see the specific breakdown for. I don’t know if you have data here from the tween age-set, for whom Minecraft has a huge appeal. But other sandbox games, (Grand Theft Auto?) make that finding of 18% women more logical.

    Age intersected with gender would be fascinating here, too. I wonder if Millenials have a significantly different pattern in their genre preferences by gender?

    And finally, following up on the aesthetic break you did for MMOs, it would be interesting to make such a split across all the genres to see if setting/context of fantasy vs. sci fi vs. realism (I’m thinking games set in “real world” setting without fantastical elements) would parallel those splits that seem to occur for fiction books (women tend towards fantasy and real world settings).

    • Nick Yee January 19, 2017 at 12:14 pm - Reply

      Hi Rosa! – You can toggle the “Game We Analyzed” section to see the specific games we used to create these genres. For Second Life, we have a sample size of 152 with 61% female gamers. Of the games we included in the Sandbox group, Minecraft was highest at 24% and is dragged down by titles like Dwarf Fortress.

      I think we might do a future blog post focusing on the age stats with the same groupings.

      • Laura Brown September 16, 2017 at 4:58 pm

        Yes! I was curious about age stats.

        As a 53 year old, single, empty nester, working female, I play WoW, Path of Exile, D3, and occasionally dabble in Overwatch and the other Blizz games. Have played Rift, GW2, and some others in that genre. Started gaming with Total Annhilation, Age of Empires and even beginnings of Starcraft. Raised two boys on my own and in 2000, we had a LAN with over 3 terabytes of storage and 4 computers. We were NOT the norm for that timeframe in the gaming and home computer arena. Most people didn’t even have computers at home much less a whole LAN and NAS devices.

    • Panilla January 22, 2017 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      Also keep in mind that in some ways these stats can be misleading… it doesn’t give an indication of how many women play each genre, just the percentage women that play a genre vs. men. It could be that a lot of women play certain genres or games, but men just happen to play them more.

      • Hannele August 4, 2018 at 6:34 am

        I feel like that is at least partially addressed by the survey structure, asking for your favourite games of all time, and also your favourite recent games

    • Mike October 8, 2018 at 11:07 pm - Reply

      Very interesting points! I am surprised too now that you mention it. I would have thought sandbox content would be more popular with girls.

  2. Jeremy Le January 19, 2017 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Nick!

    Very curious to know how fighting games (such as Street Fighter, Tekken, Marvel vs. Capcom, Super Smash Bros.) faired in this research. It’s been anecdotally stated so many times that women just don’t exist in those spaces (i.e. the fighting game community), so I was wondering what story the data tells.

    • Nick Yee January 19, 2017 at 12:43 pm - Reply

      The group average for these 4 series is 13.4%, but there was a wide spread, from 7% (Street Fighter) to 21% (Tekken). The group average is definitely higher than I would have guessed.

      • Jeremy Le January 19, 2017 at 4:15 pm

        Thanks! :)

      • Damien January 19, 2017 at 5:07 pm

        Have often heard DOA (Dead or Alive) amusingly has the highest percentage of women players in fighting games. Was there any data on that?

      • Nick Yee January 23, 2017 at 11:37 am

        I ran across this stat for Tekken in a NYT article: “Women make up about 23 percent of the fan base for the Tekken fighting games, Mr. Religioso said, but few are playing them competitively.”

        I’m not familiar with fighting games to know what mechanics/factors are contributing to this higher-than-genre proportion of female gamers for Tekken.


  3. Mark January 19, 2017 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Super interesting. I wonder if the ones that skew high do so because of their emphasis on story. DA: Inquisition and SWTOR arguably do story better than some of their peers. Also, I probably would’ve thrown Civ and Endless Space into grand strategy and then redefine turn-based to be tactics games so that Fire Emblem and the like can join XCOM.

    • Panilla January 22, 2017 at 2:44 pm - Reply

      From my POV, a good story can help but it’s not everything. Honestly, one of my biggest factors is character customization so I have the choice to play as a female. So even though Saints Row has just an okay story line, I love that I can make whatever character I want. There are also some games that I just can’t get into because the protagonist is overly macho… I’ve had lots of other women convince me to play Witcher 3, so I got it on sale, but have barely played it. Yet, I really liked Red Dead Redemption, go figure. I think I just have this perception that Geralt is a womanizer, even though I believe you can choose not to be I guess.

      I agree that all the Dragon Age games are some of my favorite games though. Because there aren’t enough games like this, it ended up getting me into the Mass Effect series, too. This also got me into Fallout as well. I think if women had easy access to a variety games that might help, too. I thought I hated shooters until my fiance and I tried out PS Now. I actually really liked shooters, I just hate the multiplayer aspect. I’d rather play by myself so I don’t feel like I’m a “bad girl gamer” if I don’t measure up, and can get better on my own.

      • Panilla January 22, 2017 at 2:49 pm

        Which is why I often give up on MOBAs or PVP, I put too much pressure on myself to not suck. So I end up watching pros play instead. LoL Worlds is a big deal in our house every year :)

      • Maggie May 24, 2018 at 6:59 pm

        I think that the makers of Witcher actual screwed up on creating him. He APPEARS to be a womanizer in the games but in the book series he is devoted to Gennifer (at least what I’ve been able to get my hands on) whenever he can be her. There is a character named Dandelion that tells his tale in the books. The other main girl in both the books and 3rd game is actually his ward and she has a very interesting backstory.
        I agree that his womanizing ways in the games is a real turn off.

  4. Matias January 19, 2017 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    Just a quick question: Why do you include Starcraft II (A pure RTS) in the MOBA category?

    • Nick Yee January 19, 2017 at 12:47 pm - Reply

      A few (admittedly strange and non-obvious) reasons:
      1) All other popular RTS games are very old, so there aren’t enough contemporary well-known RTS games to create a grouping for them.
      2) In our data, we’re able to identify games that have disproportionately related audiences. StarCraft ranks high among gamers of the MOBAs.
      3) The % of female gamers came out to be in the same ballpark for this grouping, so we just kept them together.

  5. Joe January 19, 2017 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    I’m wondering why you opted not to include online versions of traditional games, like poker or pool.

    • Nick Yee January 19, 2017 at 2:02 pm - Reply

      Our goal wasn’t to be exhaustive of all genres, but to make sure we covered the bases of the most well-known genres. A lot of these genres can be broken down much further as well (such as the JRPGs) so we may leave that for future posts. Also platform differences, thematic differences, and online vs. offline.

  6. Fraser Allison January 19, 2017 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Interesting, although I’m a bit concerned that people will assume these results are from a representative survey rather than a self-selecting questionnaire. Your sample page says your respondents are 80% male, so there’s a substantial skew in the gender base rates compared to the ESA survey. Of course your research is global and the ESA survey is USA only, but other national surveys find similar results to the ESA, e.g.

    Do you have any other information on how your sample compares to the total population of players?

    • Nick Yee January 23, 2017 at 11:55 am - Reply

      See the more detailed sample notes here: Note that our sample is primarily North America + Western EU.

      The delta between the ESA’s estimated 41% female gamers and our 18.5% is important, but how it impacts the data depends on your interpretation of the cause of that delta. The ESA randomly sampled and dialed up US households, but they don’t provide the details on who got counted as a gamer–e.g., if playing Solitaire last year counts.

      What we do know is their sample is biased towards more casual gamers. In their 2015 report, their most frequent gamers are most likely to be playing social games (31%) and puzzle games (30%). Note that this is their “most frequent” gamers. We can assume that their less frequent gamers are even more likely to play casual titles. So a large portion of their sample may not regularly play AAA titles at all.

      Our sample is biased towards core gamers–people who would click on something labeled a Gamer Motivation Profile. But when we’re drilling down to a specific game (like Diablo III in the Action RPG genre), the 41% in the ESA sample is not a meaningful benchmark because a large portion of that sample was likely not playing a AAA game to begin with.

  7. Morgan January 19, 2017 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Hi Nick and Nic!

    I’m curious how LOL and DOTA 2 compare specifically. LOL seems to have a relatively large percentage of women in its fan community, but it’s never been clear if/how that translates to the active playerbase. Whereas DOTA 2 seems notorious for being unfriendly to women players, so I’d guess the percentage of that player population is much lower. Maybe not as much of a difference as I’d have guessed?

    Thanks for putting out this study! It’s nice to have a tool to help combat the argument that there are no real problems with gender disparity because of the ESA’s 40+% statistic.

    • Nick Yee January 19, 2017 at 2:03 pm - Reply

      In our data, DOTA 2 was 6% and LOL was 14%. So the data definitely bears out your intuition.

      • Ryan July 18, 2017 at 3:00 pm

        LoL having more fan base makes sense to me. From what I noticed in a lot of these is women tend not to be in the competitive scene. Dota is been more of a game of skill compared to LoL. Lot more noobs in that game, which personally makes it fun for me and why it has a bigger fan base. No one likes playing a game your always going to lose at. Your report seems to fall inline with a lot of board gaming stats. You got hardcore games that play Warhammer that have very few people and you have games like settlers of catan that has huge amount of women. I am making a game and my goal is to bring women into the Warhammer theme with casual play. Its always a battle between casual and non casual gamers hehe.

    • lux January 19, 2017 at 2:15 pm - Reply

      I’d be interested in that for all of the games in that category. I’d assume HotS has more than League has more than Dota, and then Starcraft either last place or slightly ahead of Dota.

      • Nick Yee January 19, 2017 at 2:33 pm

        You are correct.

        Heroes of the Storm: 15%
        League of Legends: 14%
        DOTA 2: 6%
        StarCraft II: 5%

  8. Yaoi January 19, 2017 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    What about GTA V or other ‘mainstream’ popular games?

    • Nick Yee January 19, 2017 at 2:31 pm - Reply

      GTA V was included under Open World. You can use the toggle in the “Game Genres We Analyzed” section to see all the game titles we included for the analysis.

  9. Ella January 19, 2017 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    I am interested in character creation/lead roles. I prefer to play games where I can play female characters and this has a huge weight when choosing a game. Although I personally have played several Assassins Creed games, you mention the percentage change for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. This game has the option to primarily play a female character throughout. Perhaps this is influencing choice? All of the DA games are similar (and contain a large percentage of strong female characters). It might be interesting to pull out games with female leads within similar genre’s and see if this is having an influence?

  10. [nulset] January 19, 2017 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    I’m quite interested in the non-gender binary research in particular. What more can you tell us about that?

    • Nick Yee January 19, 2017 at 2:39 pm - Reply

      See also point #4 in this recent post:

      We haven’t blogged much about non-binary gender findings because of the low baserates. Once we drill down into specific game titles, there’s often too large a margin of error to say anything concrete. It’s only with these high-level analyses that we’ve been able to mention related findings.

      • Jeremy Le January 19, 2017 at 4:18 pm

        We appreciate seeing ourselves in our work!

  11. Cody Engnes January 19, 2017 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Hey Mister Yee, really interesting article. It was neat to compare my personal favorite genres to the statistics, I found In a pretty average male gamer, but I do love my farm games, haha. But all I really have to say is good job! Thank you for putting stuff like this out there.

    • Nick Yee January 19, 2017 at 3:32 pm - Reply

      I love my farm games too! :)

  12. Jae January 19, 2017 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    Hi Nick,
    I’m also interested in non-binary gender findings – and games for that matter. Also wondering what the term ‘atmospheric exploration’ means. I’ve been looking for non-binary fantasy open world or WOW like games. Any suggestions?

    • Nick Yee January 19, 2017 at 4:24 pm - Reply

      By “Atmospheric Exploration”, we meant games like: Journey, ABZU, Gone Home, Dear Esther. The Sims is the only I know where non-binary gender avatars are possible, but it’s not open world or an MMO. Maybe others can suggest relevant games.

    • Jeremy Le January 19, 2017 at 4:51 pm - Reply

      Dunno if you’ve seen:

      The PBS Idea Channel guy broke down how The Sims doesn’t try to define genders comprehensively, but instead just asks logistical questions during character creation on how to treat the character during gameplay.

    • Jasmine Henry January 21, 2017 at 6:49 am - Reply

      Hi Jae,

      There aren’t a great deal of games in general that feature playable non-binary characters, unfortunately. However, cyberpunk adventure Read Only Memories and choose your own adventure game Fallen London both let you play as nb characters and come highly recommended.

      There are also a few more games with nb characters (or games where the player character’s gender isn’t explicitly mentioned/their gender presentation isn’t particularly masculine or feminine) – some examples of those games and news on upcoming games with nb characters can be found here –

      Hope that helped,


  13. Harmony January 19, 2017 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    I’m probably one of your older female gamers. I play a mix of action adventure, rpg, and open world. If I could send one message to game makers, it would be to include more puzzles within these games, make difficulty settings for puzzles, like there are for gameplay, and please, please, let me turn off hints entirely! Story is definitely big for me, I read every terminal in every Fallout game, no joke. Good writing (and acting – think Uncharted) are key.

    • Marian Griffith January 20, 2017 at 11:56 am - Reply

      You may want to take a look at The Secret World then
      Of all the games I play(ed) it has by far the greatest variation in missions, and a system specifically designed to avoid the ‘mission hub’ problem where you go to a central place to load up on missions and then scour the surrounding area to complete them as efficiently as possible.
      It has a decent, and occasinally good, story telling.
      It has puzzle missions that will, if you avoid the spoiler sites, keep you puzzling for days as well as study subjects you never expected to. There are also logical puzzles and stealth puzzles.
      Customisation is not as good as it could be, but it is one of the very few games that has casual and formal modern day clothing. And an ingame web browser (for those puzzles…)
      And if you like to dabble then it has an extremely deep system of skill customisation that doesn’t look you into a specific class (once you get past the first tutorial like zones and the difficulty kicks up a notch or two).

      But really the puzzles are amazing (at least many of them are).

      I don’t think there’s enough responses about this game in the database, but an analysis of it would be interesting to say the least because the game does so many things slightly different than common wisdom dictates.

  14. Shalune January 19, 2017 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    I’d be very interested to see an equivalent graph of male genre interests to compare this to. In particular I’m curious to compare the relationships between genres of each gender.

    The specific example that stuck out to me first is with the greater popularity of fantasy MMOs over sci fi MMOs. And I wonder how much of this comes down to the current options on the market. Sci fi MMOs have never been the market leaders, and aside from EVE do not have a very positive critical reception to their quality of design (at least at launch in Star Wars’ case).

    I’m a little unclear on the implications of some of the wording used regarding “__% of gamers”. Is this drawing from the same survey, or is there additional demographic data being used? The comments on MMOs in particular imply that the numbers listed are actual percentages of total players of the games, as opposed to percentage of respondents.

    • Nick Yee January 19, 2017 at 6:18 pm - Reply

      Ah. One potential point of confusion is that the %s listed are NOT % of all women in the full sample who play each genre. The %s refer to the proportion of gamers within each genre that are women. So the numbers for men are the exact complement of the numbers in the chart. For example, among gamers who listed a Sports Game in the data, 98% of them were male, and only 2% were female.

      % of gamers refers to the proportion of gamers within each genre sample. I.e., Of all the gamers who list a High Fantasy MMO, what % of them are female?

      I’m going to add some clarification text right before the chart. And let me know if you have additional questions.

      • Zedark January 20, 2017 at 12:30 pm

        I would like to ask a question regarding this: you mention that the number given represent the absolute percentage of the women who make up the player base of a given game/genre. However, in the introduction you also mention that, whereas the current female gaming population is estimated at 41%, the sample of 270,000 respondents only has 18.5% female participation. This would mean, if I understand correctly, that these absolute percentages will necesssarily skew towards a male dominated population due to the imbalance of male-female participation in the survey, right? If that is the case, then we can conclude, for example, that for Action RPGs, the percentage of women who play this genre out of the total number of women who responded is higher than the percetage of men who play this genre out of the total number of men: since women represent 20% of action RPGs but only 18.5% of the sample, they are relatively more active in the genre. Am I correct in reading the statistics this way?

        Very interesting article either way!

      • Nick Yee January 20, 2017 at 1:56 pm

        Good question. This largely depends on how you interpret why the ESA had 41% female gamers while we had 18.5% in our respective samples. The ESA randomly sampled and dialed up US households, but they don’t provide the details on who got counted as a gamer–e.g., if playing Solitaire last year counts.

        What we do know is their sample is biased towards more casual games. In their 2015 report, their most frequent gamers are most likely to be playing social games (31%) and puzzle games (30%). Note that this is their “most frequent” gamers. We can assume that their less frequent gamers are even more likely to play casual titles. So a large portion of their sample may not regularly play AAA titles at all.

        Our sample is biased towards core gamers–people who would click on something labeled a Gamer Motivation Profile. But when we’re drilling down to a specific game (like Diablo III in the Action RPG genre), the 41% in the ESA sample is not a meaningful benchmark because a large portion of that sample was likely not playing a AAA game to begin with.

        On the other hand, the “relatively more active” framing is correct. Based on our data, roughly 18.5% of core gamers are female. And relative to this baseline of core gamers, Action RPGs (at 20%) have a ever-so-slightly higher than expected proportion of female gamers.

      • michael buda January 20, 2017 at 4:23 pm

        Regarding that the %s are the per genre proportion, could you also provide what portion of ALL respondents listed games for each genre? It is important information if say, sports only consisted of 10 respondents total… indicating that the survey results didn’t attract a reasonable number of sports-games fans to draw any reasonable conclusion.

        Thanks & Appreciation for all the feedback you are providing by the way!

      • Nick Yee January 20, 2017 at 4:43 pm

        Each genre we analyzed contained between 3-5 game titles. The median sample size for each game title was 1,184. And the median sample size for each genre was 4,657. That corresponds to 1.7% of the full sample.

        The genre with the smallest sample was Casual Puzzles (n = 635), and the genre with the largest sample was Western RPGs (n = 60,275). Most of the other genres were in the 3-6k range.

      • Marian Griffith January 22, 2017 at 3:15 am

        I am not sure if the dataset allows this kind of analysis, but it would be interesting to see if SWTOR has lost some of its (relative) popularity with women in the last year.
        Bioware did (probably under pressure from EA to earn back more of its considerable investment) drop or significantly scaled down, a number of properties that tend to score high on women’s motivation profiles.

        The game always was fairly ‘on rails’ in the experience it presented but it also allowed for a lot of flexibility within those confines. A companion system that made you care (some) of what your companion’s opinions were for a certain decision you had to make. Situations where it would be better to find an alternative route to your destination rather than plow through obstacles with brute force. A crafting and social system that allowed you to customise your character, or her appearance at least.
        Most of this is now gone from the game. The ability to play a female character and the story telling is the same quality we have come to expect of BIoware of course but since it is now mostly shared by all classes it loses quite a bit of its significance.

        Nowadays your companion is so overpowered that, even as a healer, they can solo anything. Even elite bosses that used to require a coordinated group of players to take down. You gain, JRPG like, preordained powers at preordained times and get to make only a handful of choices that are almost entirely irrelevant (because the developers or publishers have decided that the player should not be able to make a ‘bad’ choice). You are rushed through the game so fast that you have to skip not parts of but entire planets to stay anywhere remotely at level. Rather than feeling the hero of an epic story you feel rushed through it on the way to the ‘end game’ (where you have to start paying to remain competitive and/or viable).

        I guess I am a bit bitter about how a game I used to adore lost almost all aspects that I played it for, in the name of more profit. But I /am/ curious if the loss of female motivation factors can be seen in a change of male/female player ratio. Of course the two new movies likely have overpowered any statistically relevant change

  15. somnomania January 19, 2017 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    And see, all of my favorite games fall under some of the genres with fewer women, but it may be because of story, as many people have pointed out. I’ve been playing WoW for a decade, and all of the people I personally know who play WoW are female. I love the Borderlands series (FPS with lots of story and humor, as well as relatively open world). I have 600+ hours in Skyrim (open world, exploration, lots of story). Other favorite games are the first four Assassin’s Creed games (partially open world, otherwise… Action RPG?), the Bioshock series (FPS I guess, also Action RPG?), the Saints Row games (open world and story-driven, silly, with combat you don’t really need to be skillful to take part in), the Dragon Age series (RPG, DA:I is open world), and both Minecraft and Terraria. I love games with crafting in them. I love a lot of horror/dark games, both with and without strong combat (The Evil Within, Amnesia, Dark Souls, Outlast, Left 4 Dead, and numerous indie games). I like the Sims, and I like resource management sandbox games (Banished, older Sim games like SimFarm, SimAnt, etc). I like puzzle games but I wouldn’t call most of them “casual”; they’re things that require a lot of thought and patience and understanding (Portal, Antichamber, Divide by Sheep, Limbo, Splice). I do like match 3 games sometimes, but usually just as something mindless to do before bed, or to occupy part of my brain while watching TV.

    The FPS numbers are really what’s getting me, since Bioshock and Borderlands are both huge favs of mine. I’d even consider myself pretty damn good at Borderlands. Also the racing numbers; I haven’t played a racing game in years, but as a kid that was like 2/3rds of what I had for the N64 (Diddy Kong Racing, Mario Kart, X-treme G 2, Beetle Adventure Racing, the Star Wars podracing game). Mostly these percentages make me a little sad, though. Most of these series/games, I follow artists and makers of other fanworks, and the fanbase (at least in the very small circles I run in on Tumblr) seems to be predominantly female. It’s weird to think there’s another, vastly larger group of people who also like these games, but for the most part aren’t in the fandoms or in any real contact with the female part of the fanbase.

  16. Adi January 19, 2017 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    It’s really interesting to see two BioWare games (SWOTR and DAI) doing so good with female gamers, interesting – but not surprising. I belong to the female demographic who plays less “casual” games (RPGs, Adventure, etc.) and BioWare is my favorite company for a reason, they care about their female players and it really shows in their games. It makes their games a lot more approachable, since they don’t “scare” women away with hypersexualisation (something that really bothered me when I was younger, though I’ve become desensitized with time) and always allow you to play as a female.

    I do wonder how well Mass Effect Andromeda will do with females, it’s both sci-fi and shooter (although still RPG).

    • Nick Yee January 19, 2017 at 11:18 pm - Reply

      Great point about Bioware. I was so focused on titles and genres that I didn’t pay much attention to the studios.

    • lux January 20, 2017 at 1:40 pm - Reply

      Then again, sports games (2% female) have no sexuality at all in them, while Bioware games always have some romance or sex options.

  17. Bertram January 19, 2017 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    You have the statistics elsewhere, no doubt, but I am missing the time played here. If 20% of the gamers are female in a given game, but they play that game 5 times as many hours, the number of players in game will still be female for the most part (on average).
    I would not be surprised if number of hours played differed per game(type) and over male/female.

    • Nick Yee January 20, 2017 at 11:50 am - Reply

      That would definitely make an interesting follow-up post, to plot out the gender ratio weighted by time-played within each genre.

  18. Janne Paavilainen January 20, 2017 at 1:04 am - Reply

    Very interesting study, thank you for publishing this. Two points come to mind.

    First one is the low percentage with sports. Sports as activity is quite gender neutral I think, but is the low percentage because sports video games are usually masculine? Or is it perhaps that female sports fans are not that interested in video games in general and vice versa…?

    Second point is the absence of F2P online social casino games. These seem to be somewhat out of reach though they are apparently played by millions of players. Do you have any data related to this genre? The genre itself is quite interesting in a sense that you can pour money into a gambling game but you cannot cash out anything – except virtual goods.

    • Nick Yee January 20, 2017 at 11:53 am - Reply

      With sports games, it’s almost always male sports teams that get made into games. So the protagonist gender choice issue is conflated with the genre currently. We don’t have enough data for online casino games unfortunately.

  19. Karl E January 20, 2017 at 1:55 am - Reply

    The distribution between the genres is of course important, but I think some of the most important things to learn comes from looking at the games within a genre that deviate from the rest. Does for example Crusader Kings II have enough features to attract more female players than other Grand Strategy games? Then you can start discussing what features are common between these outlier games. Does Tekken have something in common with Crusader Kings II (I’m just guessing it’s an outlier)?

  20. Alex January 20, 2017 at 2:28 am - Reply

    On the MMO front, could the relevant factor be Starship-focused/Individual-focused, rather than Sci-Fi/High Fantasy? As you noted, Star Wars: The Old Republic has a significantly different demographic to the other two major Sci-Fi MMOs, but it also has a significantly different focus. It could be that female gamers are less interested in commanding a starship, rather than being less interested in sci-fi in general.

  21. Jon Horry January 20, 2017 at 2:40 am - Reply

    Very interesting finding indeed! One small area that I’m curious about is if you have any data regarding Guild Wars 2 as compared to other fantasy MMOs, or if this was not considered when collecting the initial data.

    I find that, anecdotally, most of my female friends have really enjoyed GW2’s focus on aesthetics, story telling, and character driven feel, along with some of the modern feminist views and LGBT friendly messaging in several points along the game’s story (e.g. an entire race of plant-people who bond for love regardless of gender, leading female NPC story characters in a same-sex relationship).

    I wonder how this would compare with the averages from some of the other listed titles in its genre?

    • Nick Yee January 20, 2017 at 11:56 am - Reply

      Guild Wars 2 is 34% in our data, so that’s inline with the genre average.

      • Jon Horry January 21, 2017 at 10:45 pm

        Thanks for the reply! Interesting, I figured it would be slightly higher, but still higher than most estimates members of my friend group had :)

  22. Marçal January 20, 2017 at 3:02 am - Reply

    Hi! Just a quick question… Where is Overwatch included? (MOBA or FPS, I guess). What’s the % of Female players in it?


    • Nick Yee January 20, 2017 at 11:57 am - Reply

      We didn’t explicitly include Overwatch because it’s a FPS MOBA hybrid. But in our data, it is 16% female gamers. So that puts it at more than double the genre average for FPS games.

      • Marçal January 20, 2017 at 2:02 pm

        Good to know! Thanks for the info!

  23. Aleksey January 20, 2017 at 3:21 am - Reply

    Interactive Drama is basically a one-game category because every game is made by Telltale Games. If you like one of them, you’ll like another one and vice versa. The numbers could be different with inclusion of games like Life is Strange, Oxenfree or Dreamfall Chapters which I think belong to the category but can attract different audience than TTG games.

  24. Tom January 20, 2017 at 4:13 am - Reply

    I would also like to hear a more about the Interactive Drama category. The examples are all made by the same developer, Telltale Games, so I’m confused as to what other games are included in that category. Can you provide a list of all the games that you consider Interactive Drama?

    • Aleksey January 20, 2017 at 5:13 am - Reply

      Those are not “examples”. Those are the exact (and only) titles that were included in the category.
      As they said: “In our analysis, we manually picked popular game exemplars to create genre groupings. Each genre we analyzed contained between 3-5 game titles. The median sample size for each game title was 1,184. And the median sample size for each genre was 9,949.”

  25. Taylor January 20, 2017 at 4:18 am - Reply

    Im curious to see error bars for each of these categories. They would give us a better idea how distinct each category really is.

    • Nick Yee January 20, 2017 at 12:11 pm - Reply

      For percentages, the margin of error at the game title level (~2,500) is 1.83%. When combining multiple titles into the genre average, the combined margin of error is scaled by 1/sqrt(n). So when combining 4 games in a genre, the resulting margin of error is around .92%. On the chart, error bars of this size would hardly be visible from the end of the bar itself.

  26. Borre January 20, 2017 at 5:04 am - Reply

    Very interesting and well-conducted research. I would be very interested in seeing the distribution of cumulative hours/played per genre (in regards to the core/casual gamer argument), but that would obviously be much harder to poll. Thanks for this!

  27. Eleanor Robinson January 20, 2017 at 5:19 am - Reply

    Where do word games fit in your schema?

    • Nick Yee January 20, 2017 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      Word games were not specifically included in the genres we generated. We weren’t trying to exhaustive of all game genres, but primarily wanted to make sure we had the main ones covered.

  28. michael buda January 20, 2017 at 8:16 am - Reply

    Thanks for the study, this pretty much validates the criticism levied at that ESA report: It wasn’t separating the apples from the oranges.

    One mild-to-moderate concern I have is with your strategy of asking about specific games… I understand the concern re: asking about genres producing poor results, but the issue I see is that there is trend for grognards like me to prefer older games in a genre/series to newer titles.

    On the laptop I’m using to submit this comment, I currently have 36 games installed. 1/3 of those are on GoG (a service which *focuses* on retro games, and is 2nd most popular after Steam), 1/2 of which were released no later than the 1990s. The remaining titles I have on GoG, as well as good number on Steam are what you might term ‘retro’ titles… they play deliberate homage to older genre styles, stuff like Artifact Adventure or Odallus: the dark call.

    Essentially what I’m getting at is if you only ask about recent, AAA/headliner titles you are maybe not getting the best fidelity in sampling genres, especially for more niche genres and older gamers (less time to play, picky about newer games, still play old titles). This could of course probably be fixed simply by asking folks if they play games which are *like* or were *precursors to* the specific titles you do ask about.

    • Nick Yee January 20, 2017 at 12:17 pm - Reply

      Oh. In the survey, we don’t list any specific games for gamers to respond to. It’s entirely open-ended text fields. So gamers can put in whatever game title they want. All these game titles aren’t games we prompted them with; they were all entered by the people taking the gamer profile.

  29. patriarchal landmine January 20, 2017 at 8:44 am - Reply

    the one key element I always wanted to know is how much money women spend on video games compared to men.

    they keep claiming that because they make up x % of all gamers that the industry needs to cater to them and less to males, but I also never hear about girls playing video games to escape an abusive childhood or ignore bad situations in their life where they need to blow off steam.

    • matriarchal minesweeper January 20, 2017 at 1:27 pm - Reply

      i feel similarly

      without hard verifiable scientific evidence that women enjoy video games we should refuse to acknowledge that women play video games oh wait this is a study that illustrates evidence on the proportion of women who play certain video games by genre

      and i definitely agree that we should assume women don’t use video games as a form of escapism and only use them as political tools to steal fun from men’s lives and that considering that women might be part of your audience is equivalent to pandering

      oh wait hold on no i don’t actually believe those things

      • WizardOfDatums July 24, 2018 at 6:46 pm


    • Emily July 13, 2017 at 12:21 pm - Reply

      Yeah. Certainly none of us had bad childhood experiences. Yup. We would never play for escapism. Nope.

  30. Manny January 20, 2017 at 8:50 am - Reply

    I analyzed 8 different research studies to get the Female Audience % within eSports –>

    The FPS % seems pretty low but the casual games inclusion probably brings this number down.

    EA has said that 25% of its consumers are Women – so with their $4B in revenue, you can SWAG some revenue estimates from that.

    • Nick Yee January 23, 2017 at 12:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks for mentioning this! Do you have the links to all the individual studies somewhere? I tried looking to get a better sense of how they defined eSports/sample etc., but couldn’t find references to the specific studies in the article.

  31. Elisa January 20, 2017 at 10:15 am - Reply

    Hi, Nick! Fascinating findings. I’m interested in any numbers for music/rhythm games (I’m looking at that genre for my dissertation). I find differences in the games’ motivations (score-based vs. group play vs. learning) can often lead to interesting results with the make-up of the player base (based on my limited sample size, admittedly).

  32. Matt January 20, 2017 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    Love this, Nick. While it’s great to understand the gender split for each genre, how does this match up with your data on overall genre popularity? That is, are there more women playing MOBAs than “Atmospheric Exploration” games?

    On a related note, speaking pedantically, the language “_______ Have the Most Female Gamers” in the headlines feels a bit misleading (vs “___ Gamers are the most predominantly female” or something along those lines, in support of your caveats above).

    • Nick Yee January 20, 2017 at 2:05 pm - Reply

      Gender Distribution Across Genres: We don’t know, because we would first need to hand-code the ~1,700 game titles in the data using some well-established genre framework. So there’s both a classification and resource problem to answer this question.

      Wording: Agreed. I’ve updated the problematic headers.

      • Matt January 20, 2017 at 2:14 pm

        Awesome. Sorry if that was previously articulated and I missed it.

        As a game dev, I’m fascinated by this and hungry for more! It’s great stuff.

  33. Jennifer Bradshaw January 20, 2017 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Hi Nick! Fellow data analyst here!

    I was wondering how, if any, accounting you did for self-reporting bias. E.g. I feel like I want to do the survey because I “know” that I’m an outlier segment, a female in competitive MOBAs. I ask because the % of LoL players your survey showed – 14% – conflicts with Riot’s estimates, which have historically been less than 10% (although I can’t find very recent official stats on this).

    • Nick Yee January 20, 2017 at 2:47 pm - Reply

      I think there’s a risk for that especially if the survey were advertised to study this. But for the most part, until we publish blog posts, the gamers who come through the profile tool are primarily doing it to get their own profile reports and don’t know what it is we’re analyzing and going to blog about in the future. The profile tool isn’t positioned/framed as primarily being a study–gamers find it because their friends shared their gamer profile on Facebook, etc.

      Riot published the 10% number in 2012 ( I don’t think they’ve put out a more recent number. Apart from the 4 year difference, keep in mind that Riot also likely had to run a survey to get their estimate and first party surveys aren’t necessarily free of bias in terms of recruitment.

      • Jennifer Bradshaw January 20, 2017 at 2:55 pm

        Gotcha. Nice to know, thanks!

    • lux January 21, 2017 at 5:44 am - Reply

      You’d on the other hand have to factor in the biases that are common with Riot’s own estimates, like counting multiple accounts by one human as multiple human players for the purpose of exaggerating their userbase.
      (Wild guess: more males than females have multiple accounts in League)

      • Charles Park January 23, 2017 at 4:06 pm

        Great point Lux. Specifically with League of Legends, you’d have to account for one person with both primary account and secondary accounts which we know occurs. This is fairly “normal” since players have legitimate reasons for needing a secondary account (queuing with lower MMR friends for example).

        You’re right that Riot would have an interest in reporting accounts vs unique individuals in their player base. If the hypothesis is true that males tend to have a secondary account more often than females, this would under-report the female percentage of players according to Riot vs a 3rd party like Quantic. Your hypothesis is actually a good explanation to support the OP Jennifer’s question about the delta between Riot’s 10% and Quantic’s 14%.

        With a quick calculation, we can estimate the number of male players who need to have a secondary account for this to be true (not including non-binary individuals). Inferred from Riot’s estimates, 90% of accounts are male and if 32% of those unique male players have a secondary account, it would make the count of unique individuals equal to Quantic’s numbers – effectively making females 14% and males 84% of the unique players. Do approximately 1/3 of players in LoL have a secondary account? This seems like a reasonable possibility, although to be more realistic we need to account for a similar reduction in female accounts due to their secondary accounts as well although at an assumed lower rate.

      • Nick Yee January 23, 2017 at 4:29 pm

        I don’t think Riot asks for gender explicitly in their sign up process, so presumably they sampled accounts and then ran a survey to get their estimate. Given this (on top of the double accounts issue), the 4% delta is something that could easily fit into the margins of error of both estimates.

      • Charles Park January 23, 2017 at 4:29 pm

        Hi Nick,

        Thanks for your great work. Insights into player needs and behaviors is important for all of us interested in the gaming community. As you mentioned there are specific games which skew abnormally high in female players percentage even within their genres:

        – Dragon Age: Inquisition is substantially higher than the genre average (48% vs 26%)
        – Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is nearly double the genre average (27% vs 14%)
        – SWTOR likewise has approximately double the genre average (29% vs 16%)

        Beyond “Finding #8” that genres align with top female motivators, would it be possible to further explain the root cause of a game which successfully meets female players’ expectations/needs? For example would it be helpful to identify the key motivators that these three games are successfully meeting relative to their genre-specific peers? Is Dragon Age over-indexed in certain motivating factors among female players when compared to other Western RPG titles?

        This could help someone specifically understand “why” these particular three games are more successful than their peers in attracting a female player base. Likely with more titles in the genre, you could even create an approximate numerical relationship between the ability to meet a specific motivating factor with ability to attract female players.

      • Nick Yee January 23, 2017 at 4:37 pm

        Absolutely. This is very much along the lines of custom reports we can generate for our clients. As you can understand, we have to balance what data we blog about publicly and what data we keep proprietary.

  34. William Hull January 20, 2017 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    SW:tOR really has more in common with the Fantasy MMOs than it does with the sci-fi MMOs. In particular it’s heavily focused on the same sort of individual character based combat, while STO and particularly EVE are more or less starship based.

    So its not really surprising to me that its gender mix is more similar to them too

  35. Angela January 20, 2017 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    Hi Nick! I’ve been following your work for a long time now, and just wanted to pop in and say thanks for this. I’ve been a gamer for a long time, and got so used to being called “he” and “him,” or getting asked, “Are you a girl for real?” that I had a standard set of go-to responses. I was also a game store manager for a time, years ago, and I could probably have retired if I had a dollar for every time someone walked in, looked around for a male employee, and then settled on me with “You probably don’t know anything about this, but…” Lol. So as you might imagine, promoting the fact that women play games is a cause dear to my heart, and I appreciate you getting the proof out there (as well as just finding the studies fascinating). Thanks! :)

    • Nick Yee January 20, 2017 at 9:04 pm - Reply

      Hi Angela! Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate it.

  36. anon January 21, 2017 at 12:31 am - Reply

    Can’t find any data on Ragnarok or Tree of Saviour

  37. jralha January 21, 2017 at 2:16 am - Reply

    Is it possible with your data to determine if being able to select the main character’s gender (or the main character being female) influences the number of female gamers much? Like comparing Mass Effect, Fallout or Tomb Raider with The Witcher, Uncharted or Metal Gear.

    On this same topic, a future research into games with selectable characters, like MOBAs and FPSs (Overwatch) and how the player base for each character changes would be interesting.

    Also, you’ve listed Fifa as a series, but would it be possible to separate the titles? Fifa 17 introduced female soccer players, would be nice to see if there was an increase in female audience due to that.

    • Nick Yee January 21, 2017 at 5:10 pm - Reply

      This is tough because games seldom vary on only one mechanic/dimension. For example, both Mass Effect and Fallout are more Sci-Fi, and none of the games on the other side are Sci-Fi. With FIFA, I don’t think we have enough data on FIFA 17 to do that comparison yet.

  38. Cleo January 21, 2017 at 9:05 am - Reply

    I have been playing games with my sons since they were kids, and still am. I’m 63 now with sons living in California and Arizona. We all see each other in person maybe once a year but depending on what game we are playing we might get together on line every night. It’s a great way to stay in contact with them and do something we all enjoy. We have been doing this for years, playing all the Borderland, Battlefield, Dead Island, Left 4 dead, etc, and are now into Tom Clancy’s The Division. I’m probably not the norm for women my age, and I have to admit I don’t really tell my friends that I’m sitting around at night shooting people, maybe I should own up to my secret alter life as a gamer. I really feel that more people and more women my age should be doing the same thing, it keeps your mind active, eye hand coordination sharp. When you play on a PC with gamepad, mouse, and sometimes keyboard you have to be sharp. I was surprised to see in the breakdown of what games are played by women my interests are at the bottom. Come on ladies, grab an RPG and rip it up! You’ll be surprised at what a stress reliever it is.

  39. M. January 21, 2017 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    This is great research, very interesting.

    One thing you might want to look at is the categorization of SW:TOR. The defining feature of fantasy is magic; without magic a world is fiction of another kind. Since the Force is actually magic, the Star Wars universe is actually a fantasy universe and not Sci-Fi.

  40. Twisted Jenius January 21, 2017 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    Do you have any data on/ideas about what percentage of the psychological horror game audience might be female? Games like Amnesia, Outlast, Five Nights at Freddy’s, etc. I recall reading somewhere recently that a greater percentage of horror film audiences may be female than anyone had previously thought, so I was wondering if this might be the case with games as well?

  41. Sakichii January 22, 2017 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    I think this article, and the statistics really interesting. I like the idea of looking deeper into the way the stats are split up across genres and focusing on people who may consider themselves gamers.

    I took the survey, and feel that you can’t really say that your results can reflect the audience of the genres. Because you get the genres/games based on asking people’s for favourite games of all time, recent games they enjoy, and what phone/tablet games they are currently playing.

    “We also ask gamers to list specific game titles/franchises that they enjoy playing (up to 9).”
    This sounds like you had a question of “Please list (up to 9) specific game titles/franchises that you enjoy”, which you did not.
    You probably would have gotten a more diverse list of games out of me if you had asked that.

    You should probably specify in your findings that the genres are pulled from a list of favourite games, and recent games enjoyed, and phone/tablet games currently being played. Rather than simply ‘games they enjoy’ because I didn’t feel as though the questions ended up effectively covering the range of games I enjoy.

    A person’s favourite games aren’t necessarily a reflection of the variety of games a person plays and enjoys.
    I listed mostly rpgs in my favourites, but I also play and enjoy fps sometimes, and survival horror, and some other games. The question didn’t encourage a diversity of games types.

    ‘Recent’ games didn’t feel clear to me because I wasn’t sure if it meant games that were released recently, or games that I’d played recently. And if it was games released recently what the timeframe – how recent is recent.
    Which possibly skewed my responses because I was trying to think of what games I’ve played that are recent games as opposed to old games, and wasn’t sure how recent they had to be. I ended up repeating myself for the ‘recent games you enjoyed’ and ‘tablet games you are playing currently’ – because most of the games I am playing currently are recent and I enjoy them.
    At least one of those questions needs to change or be worded differently to be more effective.

    ‘Games you enjoy’ is different to favourite games of all time, because favourite games requires you to judge the games and pick only the best ones – not just any ones that you enjoy so you’re less likely to pick some games over others. Asking about favourite games seems like it will most likely result in listing 3 similar results if someone has a favourite genre and might not reflect what they actually play.
    Listing games ‘you enjoy’ might possibly result in different types of games because people might want to reflect the different types of games they like – and if not they’ll probably just list the same games as they would for their favourites. So either way it doesn’t seem like it would hurt the results.
    It might also help to tell people not to repeat their answers between the questions to get more variety.

    Aside from that first part of the survey I found all the questions on motivations to be pretty detailed. It would be worthwhile to specifically ask how important is it to be able to play as a character who is the same gender as you, or is genderless, or a character you can relate to.

    • Nick Yee January 22, 2017 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      Thanks for this detailed feedback. As we note in the post, “the data we have is limited to the favorite games listed by a gamer–they are likely playing more games than they are able to list, but this constraint holds true for all respondents in our data, whether male or female.” The most important thing is that all respondents were operating under the same constraints.

      We had to balance a variety of factors in eliciting specific game titles. Free recall is cognitively demanding relative to multiple-choice questions. So simply adding more text fields creates a new problem, as this would bias the data as a function of how self-disciplined a person is in answering free recall questions (which might correlate with age, etc.). Early on, we also noticed that gamers would avoid listing any mobile/web games and would preferentially list AAA titles–likely because a gamer’s perception of a casual title is very different from how they think about a AAA title. So we realized we had to ask about mobile/web games specifically. Asking for games released in last 12 months is also difficult, because most gamers don’t have a perfect sense of when games were released. So there were a variety of issues that we were trying to balance when eliciting game titles.

      When asking about favorite games, it is true that some gamers may put down titles from the same genre they love. But others may choose titles from different genres. To us, this difference in response is actually interesting, and likely reflects these gamers’ genre preferences. When someone’s favorite games all come from the same genre, it says something interesting about them.

      • Sakichii January 22, 2017 at 8:03 pm

        Ah, I must have not taken in that point about the favourites completely. Since it mentions ‘games they enjoy’ much more often in throughout that really stuck in my mind.

        I can definitely understand the point of asking about mobile titles specifically. It makes a lot of sense.

        Thanks for your response. It’s great to see you replying to everyone’s comments.
        It’s very interesting reading about all the considerations that go into collecting and analysing the data.
        Keep up the good work. I look forward to seeing how this research develops.

  42. Shannon Macleod January 22, 2017 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    Really insightful article! I’m doing my honours dissertation on Parasocial relationships with video game characters and this survey might help inform my introduction or conclusion!

  43. jeff January 26, 2017 at 12:01 am - Reply

    Very interesting!
    I just did a little googling about the percentage of female gamers, and there is a lot out there saying females are about 50%.
    This seems really hard to believe somehow – my impression from being in game shops, gaming forums, pc forums, etc, etc. is that males heavily outweigh females in serious gaming interest.
    What do your studies show, in terms of hours spent actually gaming, about the male/female split for PC /console gamers? Not talking about cell phone nonsense. ;)

    • m April 29, 2017 at 7:10 am - Reply

      “my impression from being in game shops, gaming forums, pc forums, etc, etc. is that males heavily outweigh females in serious gaming interest.”

      I play games and avoid in person game shops/meetups and such. I like playing games, but don’t care about social activities around that.If I wanted to do something social, I guess I would go in place where women are less unusual (e.g. where it is “normal” for a girl to be in). Online I usually use male or gender neutral nick name. I don’t know how many women behave the same way.

  44. Matt January 28, 2017 at 1:52 am - Reply

    This was very interesting, and goes to show that the differences in the genders biologically and psychologically continue to show up in pretty much every aspect of our lives.

    The fact that certain games appeal more to girls than boys and vice versa should show some important things, we know as well in terms of jobs, education and life choices that the genders are so totally different.

  45. May January 31, 2017 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    Hi Nick,

    Where can I find the % of women players in each individual game?


    • Nick Yee January 31, 2017 at 3:29 pm - Reply

      Hi May: We provide some of these numbers in the post and in the comments, but we are not publicly providing the full list for every game we analyzed.

  46. anon February 4, 2017 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    How about rhythm/music games?

  47. Jordy February 11, 2017 at 7:25 am - Reply

    Interesting read! A difference that might be significant between the games that scored higher percentages of female gamers and those with lower percentages in the “Western RPG” category, is that the higher scoring games are games that make you play as a specific character, while the lower scoring games all make you play as a character of your own design.

    This aligns with the thoughts of Youtube channel Extra Credits, which have a three part video on the difference between JRPG’s and western RPG’s, where they argue that the main difference is: “following a story” in JRPGs vs “creating a story” in Western RPGs. They also argue that because of this, games like the assassin’s creed series and the Bioware titles fit better in the JRPG category, and japanese games like the Dark Souls series fit better in the “Western RPG” category.

    Do other western RPGs that “tell you a story” also score higher on female gamers? Or is it simply a coincidence for this small set?

  48. Anon April 4, 2017 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    > Spot Other Interesting Differences?

    Look at Japanese RPGs – cute female character designs are drawing women/girls into that genre. This unproven notion that women want a realistic representation in media needs to die rather sooner than later. I’m not saying we should stop the development of games in different art styles having options is always better than having none – but hailing ugly character design à la Mass Effect Andromeda as ‘diversity’ is virtue signaling without any effort in targeting what the female demographic outside of the few gender study majors really wants to play.

    Video games are still escapism fantasies, nobody wants to escape into an ugly character – males as well btw.

    • m April 29, 2017 at 7:20 am - Reply

      Speak for yourself please. Many people like realistic design more. I definitely strongly prefer realistic stories over, well, anything feel-good-you-can-save-the world fakery. What needs to die is the idea that if you like something, then anybody who likes something different is fake.

    • nanashi September 2, 2018 at 10:40 pm - Reply

      I disagree with your assessment. JRPGs are one of the few high budget gaming segments that tend to create ‘cool’ female characters and place them in a center role. They also tend to cater broadly to people who consume asian pop culture which in the west is gender equal. Cosplay, Dramas, Pop Music women are the biggest market.

      – Someone who has managed Anime events above 5K in size.

  49. Mihaela Costea February 9, 2018 at 6:47 am - Reply

    Hello and thanks for sharing these amazing insights.
    I am surprised about the absence of Social Casino/Slots mobile games in this research, how could it be, as this is a genre that makes billions of $? Or is it included in one of the genres as defined by you, like…puzzle?

  50. ellen February 20, 2018 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    Hey the reason WoW’s female percentage is so much lower is because holy crap WoW’s graphics are ugly and outdated. It’s been 14 years, Blizzard, and your game still looks like it’s being played on a PS2

  51. KC March 25, 2018 at 4:36 am - Reply

    That 6% in racing must be Mario Kart.

  52. Christie April 5, 2018 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    I wonder if WoW is lower because:
    – you have to sink a lot of time to truly get enjoyment out of it, and women are disproportionately responsible for managing children and household (or younger siblings when living at home) to have the 6 hours a night you have to play WoW to get anywhere.
    – there are no good women protagonists in WoW. Most (maybe all, I can’t remember everyone off the top of my head) of the good heroes are male.

  53. qfgm August 2, 2018 at 6:07 am - Reply

    I’d like to know what’s the % in CS:GO?

  54. sean t woodley November 16, 2018 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    This is very biased, they are skewing the numbers by adding puzzle games. people who play puzzle games are NOT gamers!

  55. Tikkan December 7, 2018 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Hi, I was wondering what percent of the playerbase was female for The Witcher 3?

  56. Laurent January 5, 2019 at 5:12 am - Reply

    Funny that women mostly play casual games and some how are called Gamers , it is so insulting to actual Gamers

  57. Eriyu February 12, 2019 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    I think “the data we have is limited to the favorite games listed by a gamer” is a bigger constraint than they acknowledge. They should really add to the survey to simply ask people what genres they enjoy, or “On a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you enjoy playing [insert each genre] games?” If all three of my favorite games are in one genre, I shouldn’t count as a negative for all the others. It’s very statistically significant if a large number of women (or men) share a second- or third-favorite genre.

    • Nick Yee February 12, 2019 at 6:04 pm - Reply

      Each survey respondent could enter up to 9 games, so while it isn’t exhaustive, there is ample room to enter in games from multiple genres if the respondent wanted to. When we mentioned “favorite”, we meant any of the 9 games they entered.

      Asking about genres directly can be equally, if not more, problematic. Genres are porous and messy and there is no standardized taxonomy of game genres. It opens up the analysis to the more serious critique that the genre buckets lack coherent meaning. For example, BIT.TRIP and Gris are both Platformers but are arguably very different styles of games. Similarly, StarCraft and Europa Universalis are both Strategy games, but it’s not clear they should be in the same bucket.

  58. Magen Purdom February 22, 2019 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    you need to see this

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