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Stats Show Men Prefer Action Games, Women Prefer Puzzle Games

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DeltaDNA recently conducted a survey featuring nine million mobile game players. The results show that a large portion of action game players are male, while a large portion of puzzle game players are female.

GamesIndustry.biz picked up the news from over on the deltaDNA website, where they rolled out the intriguing stats for free-to-play mobile games that you can check out below.

GVw9bYo Stats Show Men Prefer Action Games, Women Prefer Puzzle Games

So basically, 90% of FPS games on mobile devices are consumed by men, while 89% of hidden puzzle games are consumed by women. Match-three games like Bejeweled and Candy Crush Saga have also been consumed more by women… 78% to be exact, where-as men only make up 22% of that market.

Infinite runners are nearly tied even, and fantasy sports see 92% of its audience as men, while social slots and casino games see a majority of women at 62%.

According to deltaDNA’s head of insight, Isaac Roseboom, he believes these trends are based on social engineering from a marketing perspective, stating…

“While some may blindly argue this reflects an innate preference, it is quite clear that many games have been purposively tailored to appeal to one gender. This has led to criticism being aimed at FPS and RPG games with predominantly male avatars for not considering a female audience. Similarly, many puzzle games utilize signals that are seen as not being masculine.”

I usually refrain from just dropping in no-nonsense common sense but I’m going to go on and call bulls**t here.

First of all, whether you play a male or female in a first-person shooter is moot since you can’t see them. It usually means these games gain popularity and retain their player base based on the merit of gameplay and replayability, like Dead Trigger or Bullet Rush.

Second of all, if what Roseboom says is true then all those gender neutral action games out there like Tempo (which has playable female avatars) N.O.V.A. 3 (which features gender neutral robots), and Xenowerk (which stars a female protagonist) should help balance the disparity in the male to female player engagement ratio. They do not.

What’s more is that if it’s true that targeted marketing attracts specific genders to a title, then a game like Rise of the Tomb Raider should have had equal or higher day one sales than Halo 5: Guardians because it was marketed toward females, and obviously marketing makes up for interest in sales, right? Wrong.

The reality is that the game has had Many people blame the likes of big AAA blockbusters such as Star Wars: Battlefront, Call of Duty and Fallout 4, but then shouldn’t the game at least have sold as well as Halo 5 since they’re both Xbox exclusives? Even more than that, Rise of the Tomb Raider was on the Xbox 360 in addition to being on the Xbox One, where-as Halo 5 was an Xbox One exclusive. There’s a larger market opportunity being on two platforms for Crystal Dynamics’ game over 343’s title. If a female protagonist is what determines the lure of the female audience, then what happened?

The same could be said of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. We’ve been told by media that if you promote and put a female protagonist in a game it’s enough to lure the female gaming audience, but according to Gamezone Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate‘s sales were down. A coddle-free report from Crave Online noted that U.K., sales trackers have noted that Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate has had the second worst first week sales in the history of the franchise next to Assassin’s Creed: Rogue. While obviously a lot of people have been turned off in general with Ubisoft’s handling of the franchise, the excuse that the game could reach a broader audience by adding a female protagonist into the mix did not turn out to be true.

Maybe the more obvious answer is in the stats: females in general just don’t like shooting and killing all that much compared to males.

I’m going to not go out on a limb and simply say that the stats in deltaDNA’s survey seem to reflect a general trend in most of society: guys like explosions and guns and girls like critical thinking and problem solving.

I think the media really needs to stop trying to fool the average person and admit that maybe men and women just naturally don’t like some things in the same manner.

This isn’t to say that this is every guy or gal, but the stats from deltaDNA’s survey syncs up with the typical trends in PC, console and portable gaming.

Games like Animal Crossing, Pokemon and The Sims are generally favored amongst female audiences, while games like Call of Duty, Mortal Kombat and Project CARS have a stronger lure for male gamers. That rings especially true for Project CARS since it was crowd-funded and marketed by the community to the community up until a few months before Bandai Namco distributed it on store shelves. There was no gendered marketing at all for Project CARS since it was funded and marketed by the community. Users like Jonz put together most of the promotional ads for the game leading up to release, something that was neither gender locked nor exclusionary. Anyone could have stepped in to help fund and market the game.

But what’s more is that back in 2010 Maxis admitted that despite The Sims being promoted as gender neutral, the game’s largest demographic for the most part was “teen girls”, as noted in a lengthy piece by CNN. The Sims was not the recipient of gendered marketing back when it first released, but it obviously resonated with a specific audience and organically developed a strong female player base. Nintendogs and Petz also garnered a strong female audience, but it wasn’t like males were excluded, females just preferred those games more, as noted by Forbes.

Games like Farmville also started gender neutral but attracted more female gamers than male gamers in the long run. Additionally, mobile games showed that there were more female game players than male game players for social and casual titles, as noted by Immobi. Peanut Labs also revealed that female gamers spend more money than male gamers on said casual and social games.

Nevertheless, Roseboom seems to believe that gendered marketing – or rather, neutral marketing – would help balance the sexes and what appeals to them, stating…

“If you acknowledge the effect of gender targeting, you might not be surprised that our stats at deltaDNA show infinite runners have the most even split of players. Arguably one of the only ‘gender neutral’ genres of game as the gender of characters tends to be ambiguous.”

It’s interesting because even without marketing, just development blogs and updates, Prison Architect attracted a 90% male player base while the game was still in Early Access. This is the effects of non-marketing, so to speak.

Now to be fair, there are stats that back up part of what Roseboom is saying. Adjust Research did reveal that math and game apps are marketed three times more toward males than females… 16,855 apps to be exact. Only 5,618 apps were marketed with gender neutrality. The interesting thing about it, though? Engagement was nearly equal across the board for both genders despite targeted marketing. And as the stats above from deltaDNA reveal, targeted marketing does not seem to have much of an effect on males being attracted to puzzle games or females being attracted to shooter titles.

So marketing female characters to females doesn’t mean you’re going to get female gamers, just the same as marketing male characters to male gamers doesn’t necessitate you’ll get mostly male gamers. Obviously, both genders have preferences in what appeals to them and it has more to do with the content of the game than the marketing appeal.

“Creating a game that appeals to everyone is hard, and the F2P marketplace is brutal, so it’s unsurprising that developers choose a targeted approach. And in an age where each install can cost several dollars in acquisition spend, it’s unlikely that many female-targeted FPSs are waiting to be developed. So if venturing away from the ‘traditional’ may feel too high risk, perhaps broadening the appeal of your game to both genders is a smaller step worth taking.”

How about add the content in your game that your vision and budget allows. Why waste money chasing ghosts?

If Rise of the Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate weren’t obvious enough failures that just by adding a playable female character to the game doesn’t guarantee sales, then look no further than another financial failure in the form of Sunset. The game was specifically targeted and marketed toward female gamers and featured a female protagonist. The game sold so poorly that the developers stated they were stepping away from gaming.

Make the game you think will be fun and target it to the people you think will have fun playing it. If you want to throw in a female character, then great. But the numbers do not support the postulation from the media that adding female characters instantly raises the appeal of the game for female audiences (especially if it’s a shooter game or a racing title). Just the same as adding male characters to puzzle or hidden object games is not going to guarantee an increased appeal to the male demographic.

Plain and simple: the numbers don’t lie, people do.

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