SXSW

Men Don't Dominate Video Games as Much as You Think, Nielsen Says at SXSW

Women Are 35% of Console Gamers, 48% on Computers and 49% on Mobile

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A Nintendo employee shows young gamers how to play 'Super Mario' at the EGX video gaming conference last year.
A Nintendo employee shows young gamers how to play 'Super Mario' at the EGX video gaming conference last year. Credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

To hear some marketers tell it, everyone including your grandma is a "gamer."

That's because industry experts assessing the sector broadly sometimes include everyone from a "Words with Friends" addict to a "Call of Duty" partisan under the umbrella of "gamers."

But new data released by Nielsen at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Tex. paints a much more accurate picture of who gamers actually are, all the better for marketers trying to reach the group's various segments. Unsurprisingly, the majority of console gamers are men, but perhaps not to the degree you'd guess: Nielsen found that 65% of those who play games on newer platforms like Playstation 4 and Xbox One are men while 35% are women. Men comprise a smaller majority, 58%, of people playing games on computers.

And the gender gap closes almost completely when it comes to mobile gaming, with women making up 49% of all mobile gamers, Nielsen said. Additionally, 62% of all adults and 85% of all teens play some sort of video game, whether it be on mobile, PC or console.

Nielsen's full report has not yet been released, but parts of it were shared during a panel held by the Interactive Advertising Bureau on Monday. The panel, dubbed "How to Get in the Game," included speakers from Facebook, Nielsen and Twitch.

"Casual gaming is played on mobile devices and that skews more toward women," said Kym Nelson, senior VP of sales at Twitch. Hardcore games, like those found on PC and console, "are more immersive and more engaging," she said.

Ms. Nelson, who said "older women are playing solitaire while men are playing shooters," argued that it will take time for games to prove their legitimacy as an advertising platform to brands. Part of the battle includes the negative stereotype that all gamers are unshaven men who live in their moms' basements, the panel said.

Marketers "need to look at gamers not as a separate species, but people," said Peter Jonas, head of gaming for Facebook North America.

"You are doing yourself a huge disservice at not understanding who these people truly are," Mr. Jonas added.

Ms. Nelson added it will likely take an even longer time for brands to fully tap into the VR market when it comes to in-game advertising.

"Advergaming," or advertisements in the form of video games, will likely go away soon because they are proving a poor vehicle for reaching an audience of any size, the panelists agreed.

Successful video game advertising campaigns cited by the panel included Mercedes featuring its vehicles in the 2014 release of Mario Kart 8 and President Obama advertising in Madden football during the 2012 election.

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