If you took a straw poll to determine an image of the typical esports fan, you’d likely come back with a male between 16 and 25 based in North America or South Korea.
Well, in 2018, market research company Nielsen took a more data-driven approach with the Esports Fan Insights survey. The results became public early in May.
Although not as extensive as other market research conducted on the industry, the Nielsen research is useful in giving us a snapshot. Let’s dive in.
Esports and gender
Nielsen surveyed esports consumers in 11 different esports-playing countries. These included esports heavyweights United States, Canada, China, and Korea, plus some countries where there is a burgeoning esports industry in the U.K., France, Germany, Brazil, and Japan, as well as a couple of countries where esports is still an emerging industry, India and Mexico.
First off, the male stereotype is often correct. However, the likelihood of that being the case does differ widely from region to region. Globally, Nielsen found that 22% of esports players are female. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
There are several countries where the number of female players is markedly higher. In Korea, almost a third of esports gamers are female at 32%. In China, it is a similar number at 30%.
In contrast, there are a number of countries where that metric falls below average. In the US, only 17% of esports fans surveyed were female. Germany saw a couple of percents more, as did Japan and Brazil. Only India, which had just over 10% of female players, had considerably fewer female esports players than the US.
Managing Director of Nielsen Esports Nicole Pike explained:
“We see a direct correlation between how mainstream esports has become in a country’s culture, and how likely females are to participate in the esports ecosystem. Newer fans are more likely to be females, who often start with casual viewing and then become more engaged over time.”
‘Why do you engage with esports?’
The next question Nielsen investigated were reasons for participation. Let’s look closer, again split by gender.
Reasons why male players engage with esports:
- To learn tips and tricks from the professionals – 44%
- Entertainment aspects – 41%
- To become a better gamer – 39%
- To connect/meet/socialize with other games – 19%
- To participate in or see cosplay – 9%
Reasons why female players engage with esports:
- Entertainment aspects – 40%
- Learn tips and tricks from the pros – 36%
- To become a better gamer – 29%
- To connect/meet/socialize with other gamers – 22%
- To participate in or see cosplay – 13%
Although male and female fans are drawn to esports for entertainment purposes in almost equal ratios, it is clear that more male players aspire to some professional ideal.
Rather than argue that this means more male players want to become better players than female, I think it suggests more female players may be put off by the dearth of top-level female players in the industry. They may think regardless of how good they get that their chances of turning professional are much smaller than their male counterparts’ odds.
What else do people do when watching esports?
It is well known that when fans watch an esports stream or event, they may also be doing something else on their mobile, tablet, or computer. Nielsen asked as much and, again, split the results by sex.
- Social networking – Females 47% – Males 36%
- Listening to music – Females 28% – Males 25%
- General internet use – Females 39% – Males 38%
- Chatting or using a forum – Females 29% – Males 27%
- Watching another program – Females 16% – Males 15%
- Playing the same video game as in the event – Females 17% – Males 29%
- Playing a different video game than in the event – Females 18% – Males 23%
There are some interesting results here. Notably, female players are more likely to use social media than males, who tend to be more likely to be playing video games themselves.
Again it is easy to read too much into these answers. But it does show that females are using esports in more social terms than males. And males tend to be more focused on gameplay.
As a snapshot of the industry, Nielsen’s data offers some interesting insights. But it would need to be corroborated by further, more detailed, research to identify the genuine reasons why males and females around the world are engaged with esports.