The App Gender Gap

A gap has closed — there reportedly are now as many female gamers as male gamers. Our own analysis confirms this, but we've discovered something possibly more surprising: The rift between what games males and females play has been widening.

APP USERS (2012)
MALE VS. FEMALE
APP USERS (2016)
MALE VS. FEMALE

To build apprecs.com's latest feature (search for apps by user gender), we joined the names of 2.1 million app reviewers in the iOS App Store™ with SSA name data. The results reveal gender divisions within the App Store, app genres, and even individual apps.

In 2016, 50% of iOS app users are female, up from 45% in 2012. Women/girls now also make up 50% of iOS game players, up from 49% in 2012. What genres do they dominate? Puzzle and word games, apparently.

MALE VS. FEMALE GAMERS BY GENRE

Here's what surprised us: In most genres, the gender-based segregation is becoming more prominent, not less. Relatively fewer females are playing games in male-dominated genres (strategy, action, racing, sports), and relatively fewer males are playing games in female-dominated genres such as word, trivia, and puzzle.

To illustrate, here's a look at gender distributions back in 2012 vs. today and popular apps most heavily divided along gender lines.

What's going on here? Why are games becoming more gendered? We suspect this is primarily due to changes in app production and marketing.

App producers are stepping up their targeting in the highly competitive games marketplace, perhaps a "pink Lego phenomenon" of catering to conventional gender expectations to draw in more of a particular audience. Encouragingly, women are gaining prominence in the game development industry, and developers are starting to recognize audience diversity.

A shift in the audience might be another factor. Could smartphone expansion from early adopters out to the mainstream have brought more conventional behaviors to the app audience?

There are outliers. Arcade game players have headed closer to a 50/50 gender distribution since 2012. Could Temple Run — a game co-created by a woman and featuring female characters — have helped make the genre more appealing? Role-playing has seen an even greater boost, with the help of High School Story, Dear Diary, and other fashion, society, and romance apps.

About the author: Mark Edmond is the founder of apprecs.com, the app search engine that filters out fake reviews. His other data visualizations include Democratic vs. Republican Occupations and Disproportionately Common Names by Profession.

© 2016 Verdant Labs