Winning Female Gamers: 5 Tips for Creating Games for Women

Don't miss a growing group of passionate players

Do you want to capture billions of gamers around the world with games that represent their personalities, interests, and motivations?

Women make up a significant chunk of the global gaming community. As the proportion of female gamers closes in on 50%, it's more important than ever for companies to cater to a female audience. In this blog, we'll discuss some ideas on how game developers can create content to attract the other half of the world. Want more information?

Here are our five tips for creating games geared toward women.

1. Develop a narrative that appeals to ALL gamers

If there’s one lesson to take from our roots in localization, it’s that not every story is universal. A narrative that works for one group or culture may not work for another — the same logic applies to gaming audiences. When striving to excite female gamers, it’s important for writers and developers to take a critical look at their narrative design and examine how women are represented in their games. 

How are uniquely female sensitivities and experiences portrayed within your narrative? What roles do female characters play in your game’s story? What are the central traits, themes, and actions associated with your female characters? Does your game have female characters at all? The answers to these questions and how you address them will have the single largest impact on how female gamers receive your narrative.

Take a page from the film industry, whose Bechdel Test celebrates gender equality-promoting films and exposes those that relegate women to purely secondary roles. In 2011, UX designer Elsa Bartley retrofitted the Bechdel Test to games. Her standard? 

“There must be a female character with whom you can interact, who doesn’t need rescuing, and who isn’t a prostitute.” Ensure your games meet — or better yet, exceed — that standard.

2. Re-engineer your marketing strategy to attract female gamers

Much like the differences in how men and women receive narratives, the ways that they seek out information and forge connections are different, too. Think about how women search for and find new games — and make sure yours doesn’t miss out.

According to consumer research from Newzoo, social networks are integral in introducing female gamers to new games. 39% of women discover games through friends or family, and 20% find them through social networks. Conversely, only 27% of men discover games through friends or family. Men largely find new games through game review sites and online video channels.

Effective marketing necessitates a deep understanding of your target customer. Understanding both what games women want to play and where they’ll look to find them can catapult your company ahead of the curve.

Find out how we can help you take your games global

3. Target a growing community of women in eSports

In recent years, female eSports players have become an integral part of the competitive gaming world. Despite the rise in women on the scene, they remain an underrepresented and underappreciated asset to the eSports community. 

Out of the millions in prize money doled out to professional gamers each year, only a fraction goes to women. According to the BBC, the top 300 eSports earners are all male, with the highest-earning female player making just under $450,000 throughout her career in gaming. Compare that to the highest-earning male player, who has raked in over $7 million. This disparity is driven by a history of harassment and discrimination in this male-dominated field — few women are able to reach the top echelons of the eSports world. This lack of female role models creates a vicious cycle where women gamers have a harder time being taken seriously and breaking into the spotlight.

Empowering female gamers is a critical next step in breaking stereotypes and changing the landscape of the competitive gaming scene. Some progressive companies have made moves to encourage inclusivity and eradicate discriminatory behavior in eSports. Formula One’s Women’s Wildcard aims to open the F1 Esports Series to the female sim-racing community by guaranteeing Pro Series Qualifications to talented female players. Likewise, Riot Games’ VCT Game Changers program, a women’s-exclusive tournament, was designed to create safe opportunities for female gamers to compete in a professional setting. 

Though both initiatives were a solid first step toward gender equality in eSports, there’s still a massive disparity in support and resources between female and male gamers. Cloud9 White player Melanie Capone is challenging games companies to do better. 

“I think it’s really important to have a quality approach to it where you support these [female] teams with the resources they need — not just the exposure and signing the team, but also having a coach, a secondary coach, an analyst, and a really good manager. And if you get that one team to succeed, it’s similar to when the four-minute mile got broken. No one had done it before, but then one person does it and following that, dozens more people are suddenly able to do it.”

Professional female gamers earn less money, but they’re just as eager as their male counterparts to make a living doing what they love. If you’re looking to make a name for yourself in an under-tapped market with large upside potential, consider collaborating with female e-sports players — a portion of the multi-billion-dollar industry could be yours.

4. Hire women to build games (and to break them)

Across industries, studies have shown that diversity in corporate leadership yields diversity in the products and services they offer. This is certainly true of the games industry, which has historically staffed a disproportionately high volume of men.

In an interview with IGN, Montreal-based game developer Tanya Short expresses her concerns about the lack of female executives in gaming. “It’s been a vicious circle. If you create products primarily targeting a certain demographic, and that’s the prestigious product, then the people who play that product are more likely to want to build more of that product,” says Short.  “Male developers create products for male gamers, who in turn are motivated to become game developers. Interrupting the cycle can be difficult for women — but it’s imperative in creating games that better represent what female gamers want, and thus promote further gameplay and purchasing.”

The Sims creator, Will Wright, shares that insight. “Having more women in the industry would help a lot,” Wright states in a 2008 Fast Company interview. “We’ve been making games that cater to ourselves — to 40-year-old men. I think one of the reasons The Sims did so well with women is that 40% of our development team were women.”

Acknowledging disparity is a great first step, but how can you encourage women to join the ranks at your company? First, make sure your corporate culture is inclusive, respectful, and encouraging of diverse perspectives and voices.

When recruiting, think carefully about the language you use in your job description. A study by KPMG found that 75% of female executives have experiences imposter syndrome in their careers, while a report by the Harvard Business Review showed that women typically won’t apply to jobs if they don’t satisfy all the criteria. Compare that to men, who tend to apply after meeting just 60% of the criteria. 

“It’s important to recognize your own strengths, skills, and accomplishments. You have to believe in your ability to succeed,” says Amy Nanto, VP of Sales at Lionbridge Games. “By providing a more supportive and inclusive environment, we can encourage women to do that. We can attract and retain more talented women who will go on to contribute to the growth and success of the company.”

While ensuring that your C-suite is inclusive of women, promoting diversity doesn’t stop at the top. Hire women to lead your teams and to create your games, yes, but also hire women to test them. Make sure diverse groups of people are interacting with your games before they ever go live — that’s how you’ll learn whether or not you’ve succeeded in resonating with the demographic they represent.

Lionbridge Games is an avid pioneer of women’s equality in the gaming ecosystem. We make a point to hire female staff in a variety of positions, from game testers and content writers to project managers and corporate leaders — that’s why we’ve been on Forbes’ list of America’s Best Employers for Women multiple years running. 

Looking for some career inspiration? Meet some of the leading ladies here at Lionbridge Games.

“Looking at the games industry, I really believe that hiring more women brings different perspectives and experiences to the table. That’s how you achieve more inclusive and innovative game development,” Nanto states.

5. Invest in Mobile Gaming

The numbers are in: women are flocking toward mobile games, where they’re spending more time and money than their male counterparts. 64% of women say they prefer mobile over other platforms, with 32% of women reporting that they play at least 5 days a week. 

Mobile is on the rise in general, and some publishers have already caught on. While AAA releases were historically confined to console and PC, there have been many big-budget games to hit the App Store and Google Play Store in recent years. With massively popular Genshin Impact, Fortnite, and Roblox seeing success on mobile, turning to phones for development looks to be a good investment. 

The opportunity is twofold when female gamers are added to the equation — mobile games allow you to capitalize on a growing trend while meeting your audience where they are. If you want to start attracting female customers, go where they go. Invest in mobile. When coupled with strong female-driven narratives and a targeted marketing strategy, the investment could pay dividends.


Ready to learn more about the global opportunity to capture female gamers? Download our new whitepaper today or reach us out for more information.

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Abigail Smathers