As Ad Age reports, new data from research firm Nielsen shines a bit of a clearer light on statistics that have been bandied about in recent years, however. Reporting has put the share of women who play games in the US as high as 49 percent — and that’s true, of a certain subset of gaming. But even among the more “hardcore” gaming subsets — the people who play games like *Call of Duty* and *Fallout 4* on Xbox Ones, Playstation 4s and PCs — a huge portion of the audience is women.
At the South by Southwest festival this week in Austin, Texas, Nielsen released data that shows a little truer the breakdown of men and women who play games. In the mobile game space — those played on smartphones and tablets — Nielsen found that 49 percent of people playing are, in fact, women. In other spaces the numbers are lower: 42 percent of players of PC games are women, and 35 percent are women of those gamers who play on consoles like the Xbox One or Playstation 4.
Even though women don’t quite make up half of all gamers in all cases, it’s clear the old belief that games are only played by 14-year-old boys is, uh, inaccurate. And for an industry that brings in billions, having an accurate look at the market — and knowing what kind of audience you’re actually serving as opposed to what you think you’re serving — is essential.
What’s more, the video game audience spins off into other areas, as well. This week saw both the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and SXSW in Austin, and one of the big stars at both was a new technology: virtual reality. While Facebook has a big stake in VR after purchasing headset maker Oculus, and advertisers and content creators are already looking at VR with elements like 360-degree video, the technology is going to start out mostly in use for gaming. Sony announced a release date and price point for its Playstation VR headset, which will be out in October, and it joins a lineup that already includes offerings from Samsung, HTC and Oculus itself.
So apart from just the fact that most Americans in general are playing video games in one form or another, the audience also dovetails with other arenas, like fandoms found in movies and television. And that means that paying attention to the gaming space is useful for advertisers and marketers for a number of reasons.
All that comes down to one thing: The old understanding of gamers as a relatively small demographic of socially awkward boys is ancient history. Women have always been gamers, too, and now we know just how huge a chunk of the space they actually occupy.