Women and Esports: How Publishers and Brands Are Connecting with Female Fans
While the growth of women’s engagement in esports in the United States has not quite kept pace with other parts of the world, there is plenty of opportunity for teams, leagues, rights holders, publishers and marketers to attract female fans in the Americas.
On a global level, female esports fandom is up 3-4% since the end of 2020; in the U.S., it is closer to 1-2%, according to data from market research firm YouGov.
“There are very different trajectories of growth in different markets and regions,” said Nicole Pike, Global Sector Head of Esports and Gaming at YouGov. “When you have those different curves, you also see different timing and trends concerning how and when females are growing in terms of fandom. Over time, you start to see people coming in (as esports fans), and it becomes more common for it to be a casual pastime, as opposed to avid fans. Once that happens, you start to see females entering and becoming fans at greater rates.”
Mobile gaming – a key driver for female engagement – has been slower to take hold in the U.S. than in markets like China and other parts of Asia.
“That's where we're getting that lag effect of female fandom growth,” said Pike. “We haven't hit that spot where mobile is taking off.”
Indeed, initial YouGov data on “League of Legends: Wild Rift,” a mobile game released by Riot Games in March in the U.S., shows solid early engagement among females.
VALORANT, another Riot title, is also seeing an increase among female fans – but for different, more intentional reasons. The company has been fostering female and diverse player inclusion, by launching, for example, the VALORANT Champions Tour Game Changers. Between 30-40% of VALORANT players are female, head of esports partnerships Matthew Archambault told GamesBeat.
“This [early female engagement] has really not happened at this scale in esports,” Pike said of Riot’s initiative. “Most titles, if you're lucky, have a 20% female following. It's still a newer title from an esports perspective, and Riot is just starting to build out what that structure will look like, but it’s one to keep an eye on.”
Much of the industry is still figuring out how to reach the largely untapped female market.
“I'm working with a number of (teams, leagues, rights holders and publishers) to help them understand what the gender dynamics are for their fanbase,” Pike continued. “If the properties themselves don't know, then it's hard for the marketers to work with them to know how to take advantage.”
Pike believes that as more players in the space take efforts to better understand their female fans, it will result in more fruitful partnerships for the brands they work with.
There has been some cool and unique marketing in the space, of course, and Pike pointed specifically to the Tampax Gaming Fest this past April.
“After the fourth (makeup brand sponsoring in esports), you're like, ‘okay, we get it,’” said Pike. “But Tampax coupled a tournament and competition with conversation about female issues and put it on Twitch, a place it probably wouldn't have been on before, and had gaming personalities talk about it.
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