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Women avoid multiplayer/live service games in part due to harassment | Deloitte Women avoid multiplayer/live service games in part due to harassment | Deloitte
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There are just as many women playing games as men, but women are avoid multiplayer and live service games in part because of bullying and harassment, according to a report by consulting firm Deloitte.

The data reveals a growing trend among American women who have taken up gaming in the past two years, with 43% favoring solo adventures in rich, story-driven games. These games, which often feature strong female characters and leads, avoid the pitfalls of social interaction that can lead to bullying and harassment, Deloitte said.

The firm said that creating safer and more inclusive experiences could expand the industry’s revenue opportunities. The study shows that half of the women gamers are not interested in multiplayer games, with 69% preferring simple mobile games. This preference underscores the importance of diversifying gaming experiences and ensuring that they cater to a broader audience, Deloitte said.

And 60% of Americans engage in video gaming for an average of nine hours a week. However, the experience across genders reveals a disparity, particularly in the context of live service games, which are a major revenue stream within the industry. Women are less inclined towards these multiplayer online experiences, partly due to the prevalence of bullying and harassment, the report said.

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All of this is enlightening in light of the “Gamergate 2.0” controversy around the consulting firm Sweet Baby, a Montreal consulting firm accused of being behind the “wokification of games.” The conspiracy around Sweet Baby, however false when it comes to who has the power in the industry to embrace diversity or not in gaming, has become a cause for anti-woke proponents who feel that diverse characters are “ruining” gaming.

Even Elon Musk joined into this discussion, which is based on scant evidence of collusion among game companies deceived by consultants. However, Deloitte is a multinational consulting firm that has done an actual survey on the problem facing the game industry and how it has a chance to grow.

Elon Musk joined in the anti-woke protest against Sweet Baby.

In its Digital Media Trends study, Deloitte said there are distinct gender differences that may be
fragmenting gamers and limiting growth of key segments, like live service games (online multiplayer games). Despite the popularity of gaming, women still seem to be looking for their place in the video game community, the report said, as online games have been conducive to bullying and there is still a perception that game experiences and imagery skew toward the interests of men.

This appears to be impacting how and where women spend their gaming time. While nearly half of gamers who are men say they spend most of their gaming time playing one or two live service games,
just 29% of women gamers do so.

Questions to answer

Deloitte’s data on harassment in games.

Game companies like Modulate, GGWP and others are using AI-based technology to search for bullying and harassment in real time to try to curb the behavior, but it’s a massive job involving screening millions of incidents.

Half of women gamers surveyed are not interested in multiplayer games, and 69% prefer simple mobile games. Deloitte said that with so much emphasis on brand and franchise opportunities in live service games, and so much money being spent to develop game experiences, “are providers leaving half the population out?”

Deloitte found that 25% of surveyed women gamers and 16% of men gamers(one in five U.S. gamers overall) started playing video games in the past four years—after a supposed pandemic bump. How can game companies work to ensure these gamers keep playing? For the more casual gamers (who the survey indicates are more likely to be women), how can companies draw them to engage with big, story-driven games and live service games?

This is happening across a backdrop of a contraction in gaming after the pandemic. The video game industry has become very successful but is also under pressure to control the growing costs of developing blockbuster titles and operating live service games.

Cost cutting may help but game companies also seek more players that are paying for games, digital goods, and game experiences, Deloitte said. Cultivating more women gamers may help but to do so, game companies should contemplate how they can create an environment that attracts more women to boost engagement and revenues, the report said.

Much of this came to light a decade ago with the original Gamergate controversy and research by Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency, which shut down in 2023. Evidently change isn’t happening so fast.

Cultivating a more welcoming environment in live service games

Deloitte highlighted the need to combat harassment.
Deloitte highlighted the need to combat harassment.

One way that could bring more women into live service games is by addressing issues of bullying and harassment, Deloitte said. Although almost half of both men and women gamers surveyed believe online multiplayer games have too much bullying and harassment, they may be impacted by it differently.

About 30% of surveyed men who play games consider bullying to be part of the experience, but only 19% of women gamers surveyed feel this way.

Game companies could help by driving stronger moderation of player chatter and better socialization of norms. Among gamers surveyed, 57% of women and 53% of men agree that video game publishers should do more to combat bullying and harassment in their games. Many live services have tools to monitor and moderate text and audio chat, but the integration of generative artificial intelligence could make it more powerful, adaptive, and nuanced, Deloitte said.

Early research suggests that large language models may be more capable of identifying actor intentions, moderating toxic comments, and rewarding positive contributions. To be clear, this isn’t about making games less competitive but, rather, helping to ensure more positive experiences for more people, Deloitte said.

Producing more non-gaming experiences held in live service games, like larger-than-life concerts and promotional events, could be another way to attract more women into live service games. So far, women gamers overall are not as engaged with these live, social, and non-gaming entertainment elements of gaming: Among surveyed gamers, only 26% of women would like more non-gaming experiences inside of their favorite online games, compared to 40% of men.

This may not be surprising given that more women surveyed prefer solo games over multiplayer. Deloitte asked, “Is this a marketing challenge for live service games to attract more women, or a broader challenge to the industry to reset the perception that gaming is an experience oriented toward men?”

Game companies that are running live service games should also consider bringing in more brands and franchises that lean toward women’s interests, and they should work to empower the women creating online games-related content, like livestreams and videos. The growth of gaming over the past decade has gone together with the rise of social live streaming services and streamers, but women creators are facing challenges in growing their profiles, the report said.

Game companies should work to not only promote women creators and facilitate more brand partnerships with them, but to also support them against potential backlash. In this way, game companies could leverage creators and brands to help further normalize women in gaming and encourage game experiences to become as diverse as the generations that enjoy them, the report said.

Solo gaming

Deloitte on what women prefer in games.

Another approach may be in reinforcing investment in the kinds of games that already have broader appeal. About half of gamers surveyed, (both men and women,) prefer playing solo, story-driven games. Such games are typically not solely based on combat and have increasingly featured strong women characters, and development of some of the biggest recent titles have been led by women.

There is still work to do. A 2023 analysis of 13,000 video game characters showed that these fictional men speak twice as much as the fictional women.

And yet, bringing more gender diversity into solo story-driven games may be helping: Among women who started gaming in the past two years, 43% surveyed prefer solo adventures in rich story-driven games. Such games could attract more women to gaming.

Delivering these games to next generation mobile devices could also help. While these games can be very expensive to develop and market (triple-A titles can cost over $200 million to make), they may be poised to reach larger audiences, including TV and film executives.

Deloitte’s data shows that gamers may be especially drawn to crossovers: Forty percent of gamers surveyed wish more of their favorite movies/TV shows had video game experiences, 41% wish more of their favorite video games had movie/TV show adaptations, and nearly half of Generation Z and millennial gamers want to see more celebrity actors featured in video games. In 2023, the top-selling video game was a story-driven adventure based on a popular film franchise.

Crossovers can create more novel experiences for fans, bring video fans into gaming and vice versa, and create more monetization opportunities by bringing gaming and video companies closer together. However, the study shows that there is more interest in crossovers among men, which could further indicate that this demographic is more engaged with gaming and game-related content as part of the broader media landscape.

The largest game companies not only deliver experiences to massive global audiences, but they can also play a role in shaping culture through the immersive stories and social experiences they deliver. More game companies should consider playing a stronger role in supporting and empowering women: as gamers, streamers, employees, and innovators. Gaming companies in general should also be working to reinforce school programs that encourage more girls to pursue careers as game developers and producers, enabling them to further diversify their workforce, according to the report.

Cultivating greater goodwill with women could go a long way in engendering trust and creating a more welcoming environment within the industry.

In 2024, gaming is big and there are just as many women playing video games as men, showing how much progress there has been. But they still tend to occupy different worlds. At the same time, the costs of developing and operating games are larger than ever, Deloitte said.

Engaging and supporting more women in gaming could drive greater revenues and innovation across the industry, the report said.

To expand gaming audiences—and expand intellectual property—studios should also continue to deliver rich, story-driven solo adventures that have more universal appeal. Unlike with mobile games and live service games, women gamers are just as likely to engage with these games as male gamers. Although these games can be very expensive to produce, developers and publishers may be able to recoup more costs if more women are playing, Deloitte said.

Methodology

Digital Media Trends, 18th edition, is conducted by Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) practice.

The survey provides insight into how people in the US, ages 14 and older, are interacting with media and entertainment offerings—including streaming video-on-demand (SVOD), gaming, streaming music, user-generated content, social media & emerging technologies.

The US survey was fielded by an independent research firm in October 2023 and employed an online methodology among 3,517 US consumers.

All data is weighted back to the most recent Census data to give a representative view of consumer sentiment and behaviors.



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