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As gaming genres and titles have expanded, it has broadened the appeal to all genders and age groups, particularly within the esports and mobile gaming sectors. There has been a direct correlation between the prevalence of mobile games in sports and the rise in female esports players and fans.

Game developers are continuing to enhance existing games and create new games with art styles and graphics that will appeal to female gamers. Female gamers in South East Asia have become particularly drawn to MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games), shooter games and MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games, according to a recent study by Google and Niko Partners. 

“In the past, there was limited female viewership across esports, and one of the core factors behind this was most likely due to the fact that traditional esports titles were played on PC and console, which didn’t have the same broad appeal, along with the lack of female role models,” Jenny Hall, the director of sales and brand partnerships at Ampverse, tells The Drum.

“Furthermore, the genres of games were focused on the male taste and there was a higher tendency to lure boys to gaming via the usage of over-sexualised female characters. There was a limited representation of women and girls, who were also constantly told that video gaming was not lady-like, which deterred us from playing.”

Yasser Ismail, associate vice president, strategy for APAC at Essence points out inclusivity and demand are two key reasons for the exponential growth of female gamers and esports players. 

He notes games in general are more inclusive nowadays, with more empowering and greater representation of female characters, especially in games that are popular in Asia. For example, female characters such as Ling, Masha and Selena are all known to be top-tier heroes in Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, a MOBA genre.

“There is a huge and increasing demand for female gamers and esports personalities, partly due to an ardent young fan base of both males and females, as well as due to how gaming is on an even keel when it comes to competition with neither gender having any physiological advantages,” explains Yasser.

“Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, a Starcraft II player who has garnered widespread acclaim for her accomplishments, was also certified by the Guinness World Records as the highest-earning female professional player.”

With the barrier to entry into gaming lowered significantly, there is a definite increase in the number of female gamers over the years, a sizable portion of these users are mainly casual gamers and the rise of mobile games played a big part in pushing that trend.

The report found mobile has become the most popular platform among female gamers by far and accounted for 35% of mobile games revenue.

“While the majority of female gamers are casual players, they can be highly engaged and challenged. In-app marketing, especially ‘watch as you play’ ad units, can be a great way to increase awareness of a brand to a female audience,” says Yasser.

“For example, in India, one of the largest markets for mobile app downloads, a report by Kantar IMRB, Pokkt and Mobile Marketing Association revealed that 58% of mobile gamers are willing to watch an ad in-game to progress to the next stage and receive in-game rewards.”

Hall notes that 95% of all internet users in SEA are accessing the Internet via smartphones and spending approximately five hours per day using the Internet on mobile devices.

A Global Web Index study on mobile app category consumption found that on average, 58% of internet users across SEA were using gaming apps, up to 92% using entertainment & video apps and up to 98% using social networking apps.

“It is essential for marketers to focus on a mobile-first approach when trying to connect with and engage female Gen-Z and young millennial gamers. Social networks and entertainment platforms are an integral way for marketers to reach female gamers,” she explains.

Most female gamers spend up to seven hours per week playing compared to more than half of all male gamers, who play for more than eight hours a week, according to the report. Yasser says when it comes to the engagement of gamers, the focus should not just be about the number of hours spent, but the quality of those hours spent. Identifying and understanding how to target these users at an opportune time is critical for marketers.

He explains marketers can further engage female gamers by building marketing initiatives that are relatable to the female gaming audience, which could include sponsoring female esports personalities and in-game items which appeal to females.

In addition, it is important to be authentic and relatable, explains Hall, as marketers need to take the time to understand the female gaming audience they are trying to reach, where they are spending their time playing and consuming content.  Marketers need to ensure that they can showcase a natural fit, relatable and that your values align by thinking about building meaningful connections.

It is also important to remember that while female gamers might not be spending as much time playing games as male gamers, but they are spending more time interacting across digital channels in other ways, seeking entertainment. Therefore, she says engaging as part of a community on their social channels, watching other gamers play games, or enjoying their broader lifestyle content will work.

For example, MAC cosmetics collaborated with Tencent’s top mobile game ‘Honour of Kings’, which has a larger female following than males in China, by producing a collection of five lipsticks based on five heroines from the game.

Benefit cosmetics meanwhile, collaborated with all female esports team ‘Gen.G’ with communities across US and Asia in 2020 by helping female gamers find their ‘Game Face’.  There was also weekly video series with Gen.G players capturing their stories and beauty routines.

For fashion brand Moschino, it collaborated with EA’s video game ‘The Sims’ and launched a new fashion line for Coachella. It created a high-end fashion for real-life humans and the virtual humans in the game including cosmetics and fashionable clothing.

“Inclusivity is particularly meaningful for female gamers, who have found other women to connect with and learn from on YouTube. According to Ipsos, 66% of female YouTube gamers watch gaming videos on YouTube when they want to hear from people they can relate to,” explains Hall.

“There are various different approaches marketers could take to reach female gamers including engagement through gaming influencers, authentic storytelling in the form of branded video content, creating new product lines and sponsorship of female esports teams, tournaments and leagues.”

The Drum previously explored how attitudes towards female gamers have changed, and where there is still room for improvement.