A new study into the nation’s gaming habits has found evidence suggesting that more women play games than men. The survey of 4,058 people in the UK aged 8-74 was commissioned by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IBAUK) and conducted by the independent research agency Populus. After questioning the participants of the study via online surveys in June 2014, the research agency conducted 30-minute face-to-face interviews with 22 gamers and four industry experts to support their findings.
The research asserts that 52% of the people who have played some form of videogame in the last six months were female. The study also indicates that more people over the age of 44 are playing games (27% of the total game audience) than children aged 8-17 (accounting for only 22%).
To many – particularly those who think of gaming as the preserve of teenage boys – these findings must seem surprising; especially due to the hyper-aggressive marketing of many big-budget AAA games that are already brimming with machismo (the Call of Duty and Halo series’ being perhaps the most famous examples). The vast growth in popularity of gaming within certain portions of the population is not due to any change in direction from the AAA world however and is instead driven by the popularity of tablets and smartphones. These mobile platforms have made videogames significantly more accessible and convenient than ever before and the survey found that 54% of those who participated played games on their smartphones and a quarter of those people played on their phones every day.
“The internet and mobile devices have changed the gaming landscape forever,” says Steve Chester, Director of Data & Industry Programmes at the Internet Advertising Bureau. “They’ve brought down the barriers to entry, making gaming far more accessible and opened it up to a whole new audience. In the past you needed to go out and buy an expensive console and the discs on top to get a decent experience, now you can just download a free app.”
This factor coupled with the swathes of intuitive and – at least nominally – free puzzlers (like Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga) and social games (like Farmville) available as mobile apps has driven the rise in popularity of games.
The survey found that 33% of the total people asked named trivia, word, and puzzle games as their favourite genre while 56% of women 45 and over and half of women aged 25-44 prefer puzzle games.
When it comes to the amount of time spent playing games, the average 8-15 year old gamer plays for roughly 20 hours a week while the average gamer aged 16 and over plays games for around 11 hours a week. According to the survey, the average Briton spends six hours per week playing games which accounts for around 11% of their total media consumption in a typical week – roughly the same share accounted for by social media and only slightly less than listening to music (14%).
The study also reported that the UK gaming audience has now hit 33.5 million people of all ages (that’s 69% of the population). So it would seem that videogames, of one kind or another, are now well and truly mainstream and it will be interesting to see what these trends mean for the future of the games industry.