The Rise of Female Gamers: Esports’ Underappreciated Fans

Kim “Geguri” Se-yeon is the first female player in the Overwatch League.

Kim Se-yeon went through a lot as a female gamer.

Better known by her handle “Geguri,” the skilled tank player from the Shanghai Dragons was forced to overcome many obstacles prior to her professional career in Overwatch.

Before ultimately joining the Overwatch League in 2018, she was accused by some on Overwatch’s Korean server of hacking her gameplay – a serious charge in the competitive gaming world. These individuals believed that a girl couldn’t possibly be as talented at Overwatch as Geguri was, and therefore she must be making use of scripting or aimbot cheats. When she ultimately proved she was not hacking during a live televised event, Geguri broke down crying, feeling vindicated at last.

These days, Geguri’s esports career is going well, a far cry from the harassment she endured earlier in her competitive playing days. She now relishes in playing in the Overwatch League spotlight, and draws many female gamers to the stands to cheer her on each match.

Geguri’s success ultimately showed that female gamers could compete at the highest levels in esports. Her rise also revealed another truth: female gamers were an underappreciated and growing part of the global gaming community.

The Breakdown of Female Gamers

As of 2019, female gamers constitute 46% of the total US gaming population.
Credit: Statista

While historically associated with males, particularly young ones, today many females participate in gaming – with an estimated 46% of gamers in the US being female. While this number includes women who play casual and mobile games – a subset of gaming in which 66% of active players are female– a growing number associate themselves with competitive esports and are avid, conventional gamers.

Female viewership share of esports in 2019 was an estimated 30.4%, representing a 6.5% increase from 2017. In addition, female gamers now make up 20% of the total playerbase in DoTA 2, 26% in Hearthstone, 23% in Rainbow 6: Siege, and 26% in Overwatch. These shares of total players may look small compared to the majority male fanbase; however, female viewership and player bases are significantly higher than where they were a decade ago.

Female Professional Gamers and Streamers

Imane “Pokimane” Anys is one of the biggest Twitch streamers today, encouraging many female gamers and streamers to actively pursue careers in the space.

  • Geguri is not an isolated case either, as the number of females competing in competitive gaming is on the rise across a number of different titles, including:
  • Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn; a professional Starcraft 2 player;
  • Ricki Ortiz; a high-level professional Street Fighter V player;
  • Rumay “Hafu” Wang; frequently competes in Twitch-sponsored Teamfight Tactics tournaments and formerly competed in Hearthstone and World of Warcraft events
  • Katherine “Mystik” Gunn; a a highly-successful Halo: Reach participant, who also streams on Twitch and cosplays; and
  • Chinese Hearthstone player Li “Liooon” Xiao, who became the first female player to win the Hearthstone Global Finals in 2019.

Female streamers are another fast-growing segment of women in gaming. These streamers, like professional female gamers, encourage more female gamers to become active in the broader gaming industry. One of the biggest Twitch streamers is Imane “Pokimane” Anys, a Canadian streamer who has over 3.5 million followers on Twitch and 4 million subscribers on YouTube, and is best known for streaming League of Legends, Minecraft, and and Fortnite.

Kristen “KittyPlays” Valnicek ultimately elected to drop-out of college in order to pursue a full-time streaming career.

Another very successful female gamer is Kristen “KittyPlays” Valnicek. A competitive Fortnite player, she parlayed her popular Twitch streaming carrer into bigger opportunities.

Originally, after graduating, she wanted to be a lawyer. But when she saw she could make more – a lot more – money being a successful Twitch streamer, she went all-in, ultimately dropping-out of college just a few credits shy of graduating. “I was going to be a lawyer and I now make more than if I owned my own firm,” she recalls. Seeing a great opportunity, she ultimately moved from her native Canada to Los Angeles to further her streaming career.

Both KittyPlays as well as her fellow Canadian, Pokimane, represent the many opportunities that women have in the ever-expanding, and increasingly profitable, gaming industry.

Female Gamers Still Feel Underrepresented

Women are increasingly prevalent at professional esports events such as Overwatch matches.

Despite the major strides female representation in gaming has made in recent years, many women still feel that they are underrepresented in the space, with 62% of women interested in esports believing that companies in the industry fail to market to them effectively.

While they may not be targeted by legacy endemic, and even new, non-endemic brands, many female gamers feel that they are increasingly welcome in recent years. A study by Momentum We Know shows that 81% female gamers say that their gaming experience when attending events has been very positive.

Back in 2014, Sabrina Wong went to her first esports event, a Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament. As fun as the event was, she quickly noticed that she was one of only four females in attendance. Although there were few females at the event that day, gaming events have ultimately see an increase in the number of women attending events in real life.

In addition, the increase in female engagement with esports stretches beyond audience attendance, as more women are also working in esports as hosts, producers, and CEOs in the gaming realm.

The Market for Female Gamers is There

Fnatic and Sanrio used cute marketing and the iconic Hello Kitty to position themselves to female gamers.

Another benefit of increasing female participation in gaming are new and engaging business opportunities for companies involved in the industry. Like their male counterparts, women have shown that they are willing to spend on esports events, gaming hardware, and related products in a meaningful way.

About 81% of women have either attended an esports event or are willing to fly to an event. Women that do attend esports events are more than willing to purchase memorabilia, with 60% of female esport event attendees spending $125 or more on esports merchandise and jerseys. Companies are recognizing the increasing demand from female female esports fans, as evidenced by Louis Vuitton’s partnership with Riot Games, in which the French fashion designer will create a new fashion line to appeal to female gamers of Riot’s League of Legends title. In addition, Fnatic and Sanrio, the creators of Hello Kitty, have teamed up to create a number of new products meant to appeal to women.

The Exploding Chinese Market

Esports in China are no joke. They’re a huge business, and more and more female gamers and streamers are entering into the professional scene.

The future of gaming and esports will undoubtedly be heavily influenced by China, a powerhouse in the broader gaming industry. In a country of almost 1.4 billion people, 48% if which are females, women make up 40% of mobile gamers – with that percentage expected to increase.

However, according to consulting company Niko Partners, if there is one factor that may hinder the growth of female gamers in China, it could be the depiction of women in gaming. The consulting firm found that if female characters were more frequently portrayed in more conservative clothing, rather than being displayed in objectifying attire, then an increasing number of young women may relate to gaming and be encouraged to play.

One of the reasons Shanghai was a founding Overwatch League city is because of China’s booming esports scene.

Women in China are also increasing becoming professionals in esports. With more women posting their scores and rankings on social media program WeChat, and becoming more confident in competitive games, a positive feedback loop is established that encourages other women to engage further. While it’s no coincidence that one of the founding teams of the Overwatch League is based in Shanghai, as Blizzard and Tencent know how big the Chinese esports scene is, Geguri’s presence on the team is likely a welcome sight for other Chinese women hoping to go pro one day.

Wrapping it up

Female gaming has come a long way in the last decade. From esports events having single-digit numbers of females in the audience to women now representing up to 30% of total viewership in the space, female gamers are on the rise. With more women players also going pro in professional events, streaming on Twitch, and working in high-level positions across the gaming industry, being a woman in gaming isn’t a niche anymore.

It’s becoming the norm.

Who are we and how can we help?

Teknos Associates is uniquely positioned to identify and analyze the current and anticipated trends within the esports and gaming industry. From our significant knowledge of how the esports and gaming industries have developed, to our first-hand experience providing advisory services to organizations at all stages of development and growth, our team is ready to help brands capitalize on the myriad of opportunities available in the esports and gaming industries. Our vast experience includes delivering strategic analyses, offering comprehensive guidance, and providing valuations to teams and organizations in the industry. To learn more, contact Teknos Associates at

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