How Have the Game Trends for 2016 Impacted How Men and Women Play?

Gaming is often seen as a male pastime, but the figures show a very different story

The Gears of War 4 launch in Miami.
The Gears of War 4 Launch In Miami Image Getty

Gaming is often seen as a male pastime, but the figures show a very different story.

According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the ratio of male to female players is currently 59/41%, down from a high for female players of 52% male in 2014.

Interestingly, ESA has found that the average female gamer is older than males, with the average male game player being 35 years old and female being 44 years old. According to its findings, the age distribution of male players is lower due to the higher proportion of younger gamers, while female gamers are more evenly distributed across the age ranges.

The devices we use are also changing, with the ESA finding that the top devices used by frequent gamers are 56% PC, 53% game console, 36% smartphone, 31% wireless device and 17% dedicated handheld system. 

The increase in mobile gaming has seen a rise in popularity of puzzle, board, card and game show-based games. The transition of games onto mobile devices has opened up gaming to a wider audience, as smartphone owners have been able to play whilst on the move. 

Some of the most memorable mobile games from recent years include the ever-popular Clash of Clans and the short-lived craze for Pokémon Go. During last summer, it seemed like the whole world was playing and talking about Pokémon Go.

One of the reasons both these games were so popular is their viral nature and how it created competitiveness between friends through social media leaderboards. Indeed, the interactivity of games with social media has captured more players out of curiosity and social pressure.

Not only have traditional games been popular in this transition; casino and bingo games have also shared the success. For example, Zynga Poker incorporates the thrill of playing Texas Hold ‘Em in a virtual casino setting within a free-to-play social title, with players being rewarded not with real money but with the satisfaction of surpassing their friends on an online leaderboard.

Bingo sites have also managed to maintain both their game integrity and their social aspect as they increasingly switch to virtual play spaces, by incorporating chat rooms, chat hosts and live chat functionality. Bingo sites including Sun Bingo also feature 90-ball, 80-ball and 75-ball games as well as a room for beginners to learn the game.

As these examples show, gaming is far from being an individual pursuit: the ESA found that 48% of gamers play social games. Players are not just limited to being physically in the same room anymore to be social; gamers see playing as a way to connect with friends and spend time with family.

However, the emergence of eSports is starting to revolutionise social gaming even further, with fans flocking to stadiums to watch events in England, Germany and Poland. The game’s viewership has increased massively by 43% in two years, from 204 million in 2014 to 292 million in 2016, largely being an audience of men.

Like conventional sports, eSports have commentators, coaches and analysts, making the games as interactive and competitive as other sports. Gamers spend hours perfecting their moves in order to win the biggest tournaments, while matches can be viewed through social media, video clips, cable TV and stream coverage.

Some of the top eSports titles in 2016 were Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends. With the popularity of these games and the skill required to compete at the highest levels, there have even been questions about whether this could become an Olympic sport.

The other game changer that everyone is eagerly waiting for is virtual reality gaming. In 2016, we saw some progress made in virtual reality, with several virtual reality game systems headsets launched, including Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and Vive.

Although the virtual reality market is beginning an upwards push, it’s currently undergoing a slow start and has yet to have seen the release of a “killer app”: a game that will capture the mainstream interest VR needs to become mass market.

With interest in virtual reality sparked by games like Pokémon Go, where people were able to easily experience augmented reality for the first time, there is an appetite for more. Virtual Reality gaming is definitely still an area to watch, because who knows what progress we will see in the next year in terms of either hardware developments or surprise software applications.

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Toby has been a gaming geek since 1997 with an unhealthy obsession for Pokemon.