Video game streamer and content creator Magsplay aka Mansi Gupta spent around 6-7 hours playing games such as PUBG religiously during lockdown and eventually decided to start her own channel which is a mix of video gaming and lifestyle content. Magsplay has partnered with big brands such as Dell, Realme, fintech brands and international gaming publishers.
“Recently, there has been a lot of interest from brands towards female gamers and they want female representation in their marketing campaigns. However, 10-20 percent of audiences still have bias towards women playing games,” she tells Storyboard18.
Gupta is among top female gamers in India along with streamers such as Monika “Sherlock” Jeph, Shagufta “Xyaa” Iqbal (streamer and female game developer), Shazia Ayub (Mysterious YT), Pooja Khatri and Saloni Panwar (popularly known as Meow16k).
Due to the massive surge of female gamers in recent years which is further accentuated by Covid-19 pandemic, women are rapidly straddling multiple roles in the online gaming industry such as gamers, streamers, game creators, or entrepreneurs, making it a more diverse and inclusive ecosystem.
According to the report launched by EY in 2022, the number of women gamers grew by 18 percent in 2021 and is expected to grow by 20 percent by the end of 2022.
“Women are increasingly entering the gaming industry by engaging in genres like real money skill-based games, esports and casual games. While there is a prominent rise of women player participation major esports tournaments all over the world, other genres like RMG (real money gaming) also gave the sector an ensemble of pro-players like Muskan Sethi, Nikita Luther and many more who have been representing India at a global stage,” says Roland Landers, CEO of All India Gaming Federation (AIGF).
Upsurge in demand
Sooraj Balakrishnan, head of marketing, Acer, tells Storyboard18 that over the last two years, they have seen many women spending more time gaming due to work from home (WFH) and hybrid work. They initially start on mobile phones and then transition from mobiles to PCs when they want to take gaming more seriously.
“The average spends by women consumers when it comes to gaming laptops is between Rs 80,000 to 1 lakh when they want to take gaming more seriously. There is also discretionary income and easy financing to make this kind of purchase less of a burden. We have also seen dual purpose usage of gaming laptops at a more entry point of Rs 55,000 where they use it for college and other use while gaming at leisure time,” he notes.
Acer organised an exclusive tournament for women in its flagship Predator Gaming League tournament last year.
Various gaming publishers, video gaming streaming and esports platforms have also witnessed steady surge in women gamers.
Rohit Raj, Co-Founder, COO, EsportsXO, says that the ratio of male to female gamers was less; however, this has been changing, and the ratio is now 20 percent.
“In order to elevate the status of women gamers in our vast community, EsportsXO is working on interesting IPs that will revolve around and celebrate female gaming in India,” he adds.
Live community gaming platform Tamasha Live said that it has more than 1,600 female game hosts and more than three lakhs female gamers on its platform who mostly play casual board games (Ludo), and community games (Tambola). More than 50 percent active hosts are female but around 30 percent gamers are female with the latter outperforming male hosts in building and engaging communities on the platform.
“We currently don't have ways to let anyone monetise through brand collaborators on the platform but we are planning to build tools in the future where women creators can host branded tournaments and monetise through brand collaborators. They would also be able to stream their tournaments on YouTube or any other social platform,” says Saurabh Gupta, co-founder and CEO, Tamasha Live.
Currently at the beta stage, social networking platform for esports fans and gamers Qlan already has 9 percent of its total gamer base as women.
“We’ve invested a substantial time to break down and understand women gamers from the core. The first step will be to build a community of women gamers on Qlan, helping expose them to a larger spectrum of opportunities on Qlan, ensure higher discovery of these women gamers and empower them to pave their own path in the gaming and esports industry,” says Sagar Nair, co-founder & CEO, Qlan, The Gamer's Social Network.
With high engagement, brands are following the female gamers as well.
Pranav Panpalia, founder of influencer marketing agency OpraahFx, says that on an average, a leading female gamer observes about 8-14 percent of engagement on their YouTube videos.
“Roughly, a female gamer with about over 500,000 subscribers on YouTube would charge about Rs 3-5 lakh for an integrated video. Female gamers endorse brands from gaming to tech, consumer goods to fast food, finance to personal care. People have a stereotype that a female gamer would sell female-specific products, but no. The majority of their followers are male and also have a fair ratio of females. Hence women gamers prefer to promote brands and products for both,” he adds.
OpraahFx is working with a few aspiring gamers and help them with game training, content strategy, and partnership with larger gamers and brands.
Rohit Agarwal, founder and director, Alpha Zegus, a marketing agency specialising in the domains of gaming and lifestyle, shares that on Instagram, women gamers are actually driving equal or more engagement than their male counterparts, since they bring a perfect mix of gaming and lifestyle communication to the content they put out.
“Not only are women gamers coming on par with male gamers in terms of endemic brands, but a lot of non-endemic brands (such as L’Oreal, Maybelline, Tinder, etc.) are seeing the value of collaborating with women gamers, and are betting big on them,” he notes.
Even though the Indian esports landscape is growing exponentially, there seems to be a lack of a regulatory framework to address complaints of harassment and misconduct faced by female gamers. While platforms claim that they do have in-built technology to prevent any such occurrences they can suspend and/or disqualify the accused player’s account or user content or restrict their participation in such events if the issues are raised on the platforms.
“Therefore, in the absence of any specific provisions or guidelines, these gaming platforms fall under the ambit of Internet Intermediaries and Digital Media platforms, thereby required to comply with the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, thereby appointing a grievance officer to address the complaints of the users in specific manner and timeline,” says Santosh Vikram Singh, partner - IP and Sports Law, Fox Mandal & Associates. He adds, “Additionally, the other viable remedy for the victims is to initiate a criminal complaint against the perpetrator under the Information Technology Act 2000 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860.”