How female gamers are transforming the gaming landscape in India
With 252 million unique visitors to games-related sites in March 2021 (as per ComScore), India is one of the largest gaming markets today. Women gamers are increasingly becoming a part of India’s gaming universe. A study conducted by InMobi, analysing usage patterns between January 2020 and January 2021, revealed that 43% of the mobile gaming audience in India was women and across diverse age groups. From gamers to streamers to game developers and entrepreneurs, women are increasingly straddling different roles in the gaming industry.
According to ‘Think With Google APAC – Play like a Girl Report, 2020’, nearly 18% of all gamers in India are women. Moreover, the number of women is increasing at a faster rate than male gamers, especially during the pandemic. The report also highlighted about ‘PokerDangal’, a popular casual poker game in India, which reported that its number of female users surged by 500% in 2019 – and more than 80% of those users were younger than 25 years old. This is in line with the fact that 95% of Indian women who own smartphones use them to play mobile games, compared to just 86% of male users. Moreover, 78% of women played games for up to two hours on their smartphones. It’s clear that more and more Indian women, especially the younger generation, are poised to become avid gamers in the near future.
Reasons for the growth surge
Speaking about the growing segment of female gamers, Yash Pariani, Founder & CEO, Indian Gaming League (IGL), said, “Female gamers are on the rise in Asia, especially in India. According to a recent BBC report, the number of female gamers in Asia (including India, China and Japan) is growing at a faster rate than their male counterparts.”
Adding further, Pariani said, “Female players are becoming more prevalent, and various experiments have been attempted to determine if they have distinct motives and game-playing habits. According to a research, gender and culture make a key difference in relation to the gaming motives and learning experience of the players. Those demanding equality of opportunity, care, and conditions in gaming are questioning whether the market is designed properly to support this growing customer segment. Women in games, for example, advocate for a reimagining of the entertainment industry that is free of gender inequality by approaching the culture from the viewpoints of the staff, product, and player population.”
“From casual online games such as Candy Crush to more hard-core intensive ones like Call of Duty – the popularity of online games within the female gaming community is expected to grow even more this year,” noted Dhiraj Soni, Head – Marketing, Gaming & Streaming category at Logitech, adding, “The recent Play-from-home phenomenon has enabled both new consumers and existing gamers to be able to spend more time on esports. According to a report by Inmobi, women constitute 43% of the mobile gaming audience in India of which 12% are in the age group of 25-44 and 28% are over 45 years. Women today are highly committed gamers, with 77% of them playing at least once a day if not more, to relax and stay connected with family and friends. Data from this report also states that around 32% of women play games in 10-minute sessions while 23% tend to play for over an hour every day.”
As the involvement of female gamers is increasing, the gaming industry needs to be vigilant about incorporating more women-centric themes as well as breaking prevailing stereotypes in the way characters are depicted.
Speaking on how female gamers are transforming the gaming landscape in India, Naman Jhawar, SVP, Strategy and Operations, MPL, elaborated, “The number of female gamers is growing at a faster rate than male gamers, in India as well as Asia. We are also seeing huge participation from women in esports, and this will attract more female viewers and fan following. With the gaming industry poised to reach Rs 155 billion by 2023, female gamers will be an important catalyst for the growth of the sector. It is also gratifying to see how the gaming culture in India has evolved over the years. From being an all-boys club, we now have many women gamers and streamers who have taken centre stage.”
He further said, “At MPL, our aim is to make esports more inclusive and diverse. In furtherance of this, we are looking to develop communities for female gamers, promote female gamers as part of our ecosystem and provide them with opportunities for growth.”
Given Indian gamers’ love for experimenting with new games and downloading different games every week, the gaming industry is gradually evolving, considering the high growth of female gamers, especially during the lockdown period.
The Pandemic & gender equation
On how the pandemic period has impacted gender equation in the gaming space, Rahul Bhatia, Co-Founder, RVonline, Poker Magnet, noted, “The reason for the huge surge in the online gaming database is because numerous individuals were housebound and there are not many recreational activities that people can take part in. However, we have not seen a significant change in the proportion of female to male players during this pandemic. The gaming industry is gradually evolving in catering to the needs of the growing segment of female gamers, however, there is still a long way to go. In the future, you will see this trend reflected in gender-neutral UI of poker apps or women-specific tournaments, etc.”
Speaking further about the difference in the behaviour of male and female gamers, Bhatia observed, “It is very difficult to generalise behaviour for the two genders. Most of the players are in it for the thrill of the game, a monetary reward, or an escape from the monotony of life. Female gamers tend to be more cautious and have a capital preservation mindset in their gaming behaviour. They also expect an environment free of misogyny and sexism.”
According to Logitech’s Soni, “While the offline esports events have predominantly seen male participation, a greater shift towards online in the recent year has been a leveller for both men and women as there is not much difference between the time spent by each of these gender groups in playing online games. With a clear shift in gaming patterns from video games to online gaming, both men and women have been spending more time on online games esp. Mobile as they are easily accessible, attractive, and come with a lot of options. An increasing number of female gamers, streamers are likely to emerge as there is continued growth in gaming and greater acceptance of gaming as a career.”
Talking about the gaming industry that is adequately structured to serve the female gamers’ growth, Amit Kushwaha, Head - Brand Strategy, Gameskraft, said, “Female user expectations are like the rest of the gamers. As per various interactions we have had with our players across the board, we do not feel that the expectations of female gamers are that different from the rest of the gaming universe. They also strive for the best gaming experience, user-friendly interface, easy game handling, and no time lag. At game performance level, their expectation is like any other gaming enthusiast.”
According to Soni, be it male or female, every gamer looks for either of these three things – fame, recognition, and the opportunity to improve their skill. While opportunities for female gamers are less in comparison to male gamers, however, expectations are no different.
Kushwaha further explained, “At Gameskraft, we believe that due to higher awareness and exposure to international gaming experiences, expectations of current players have risen, and female gamers are no different. Their expectations are also the same in terms of quality of graphics, gaming experience, and interaction with the gaming platforms. Gaming as an industry needs to continuously evolve to meet the expectations of users or else growth will not be possible. Currently, the gaming industry in India is at a pivotal stage and we firmly believe that the Indian gaming industry is structured to serve the demands and expectations of all users, including female gamers. We at GamesKraft, welcome feedback from users of the various segments and utilise it in improving the quality of our games to be ahead of our competitors and ensure the best user experience.”
Sharing his views, Soni said, “Male or female gamers, both like to feel represented not just in gameplay but at the creator level too. Today, we have female gamers like Meow 16k, who are not just creating good content but are also representing India at International esports tournaments. However, at a broader level, there is still lack of acceptance of gaming/ esports as a profession or a career, and the absence of a single recognised authority or organisation representing the players, various esports event organisers, and the gaming eco-system at large covering hardware brands and game publishers. Hence, there is lack of infrastructure support, recognition and remuneration. This does impact participation and taking esports as a career option, even more so among female gamers looking at making an impact.”
Parineeta Rajgarhia, Founder, Zero Latency, Mumbai, added here, “As we know, there are two sets of female gamers – first, the hard-core gamers for whom the competitiveness and the thrill is real, and second, the casual gamers who enjoy gaming more as an experiential activity. There are developments and adaptations taking place to capture both of them to increase the gamer community as a whole. We can see quite a few changes taking place in the industry and am listing a few of them here for you.”
“Women entering the gaming space are acting as disruptors and pushing for the creation of content that meets their taste and liking. Driving for better innovation and making gaming an experiential activity, has helped in growing past the gaming content of shooting and racing games only (games largely associated to provide a thrill to men)and led to the creation of games of different genres such as role-playing games, adventure games, puzzle games and so on. Further, more and more women workforce are joining the industry and taking entrepreneurial roles in the gaming industry. With the larger global companies already on it, I believe it is a matter of few years when the Indian gaming companies will also catch up and then the complete evolution of the gaming industry involving women at par will be witnessed,” she added.
Speaking about how Logitech is supporting the cause of female gamers in India, Soni said, “At Logitech G, we are passionate about creating gears and experiences we can share with everyone. With our continued innovation in design & technology, we are committed to consistently deliver the best experience for gamers. We aim to raise the visibility of female gamers and support their professional growth as part of our efforts to create a more inclusive environment and enable everyone to come together and pursue their passion for gaming. We have been engaged with India’s top gaming female influencers – Xyaa and Ankita C for product reviews, gaming match-ups wherein they team up or even compete with other male influencers/ streamers driving a more inclusive and a gender agnostic approach to build the gaming – both in terms of participation as an esports player and the community.”