Thursday, April 1, 2010

Gender and our Games

Here at Lolapps, we try make our games appeal to both men and women, but some themes naturally attract one gender rather than another. Since women are from Venus and men are from Mars, it's not surprising that there are measurable differences to account for when comparing how genders approach game play and monetize in games. In our games, we noticed some particularly intriguing differences.

Of our current titles, two are very gender-centered - Band of Heroes is a game where players assume the role of a soldier in World War II, while Diva Life allows the player to experience the life of a rich and multi-talented Diva. As we expected, the former appeals mostly to men, while the latter found its audience mostly with women. However, we were somewhat surprised to find that the fraction of men playing Diva Life is much smaller than the fraction of women playing Band of Heroes (see the figure below). This is a trend we have observed in other titles as well: men object heavily towards playing a female-focused game, much more than women object to playing a game traditionally thought of as "male."

Another gender-based aspect of game play we've been tracking relates to player performance within the various games; i.e., at what rate do players progress through the game content and how much content do they engage with. When considering Diva Life, about 2% of men "finish" the game - that is, unlock all realms and finish all missions. That is exactly the same percentage reflected for women who play this game. Fewer men play Diva Life, but those who do play, advance with the same rate of game completion as the women players. When considering Yakuza Lords or Band of Heroes, only half as many women finish the game as men: 3% of men finish the game, while less than 1.5% of women manage to finish it.

This asymmetry is also present when considering the number of actions taken per user in each game, as in the figures below (we only consider two of the many actions that a player can make in the game). Actions taken are defined as: any feature or mechanic in the game that requires the player to actively engage with the content.

In Diva Life, men take just as many actions as women on a per-player basis. In Band of Heroes, women take much less action than men - completing about half as many actions per player. Hence, even though the ratio of women /men in Band of Heroes is higher than the ratio of men/women in Diva Life, these women are less engaged.

This is an interesting asymmetry - female-oriented games attract far less men, but those attracted to them are just as engaged as the women in them. On the other hand, male-oriented games are able to attract a fair share of women, but these women are much less engaged than male players. They will join the game and play, but are seemingly never as interested as men are.

This means that, at least for our games, men are more selective towards which games they will play, but when they choose a game, they will put in more effort to do well in it. Women, on the other hand, are less selective and may play more diverse types of games, but will only excel in those that they are really interested in. Therefore, in an environment where there is an equal number of men and women, having a male-oriented game will attract more users in total, but engagement will be lower among women.

We are still investigating how a gender-neutral game behaves. The recent Dante's Inferno is proving to be such game, with a very balanced number of men and women in it. Since it is very recent, very few users have actually finished the game and we'll leave this to another post.