Global lockdowns due to COVID have put an emphasis on entertainment in general this year, with gaming and esports both seeing significant boosts. The games industry is still predominantly male, but the number of women playing games and participating in esports continues to grow. In fact, Interpret’s most recent data from NMM: Global Profiles® indicates that female viewership worldwide climbed several percentage points during the pandemic and is approaching 40% of total esports viewers. Women in the UK and South Korea have shown especially strong interest in esports.
Not only is this a positive sign for diversity in the esports business, but professional teams now have an opportunity to appeal to more women in a sector that’s been catering mostly to men. Gen G, for example, is expanding its partnership with female-focused social app Bumble and will be launching an all-female squad, under Team Bumble, to compete in Valorant (Gen G previously launched Team Bumble in 2019 to compete with an all-women’s team in Fortnite). Gen G’s news came hot on the heels of Cloud9’s decision to launch its own all-women’s Valorant team, Cloud9 White (the male team is being renamed Cloud9 Blue).
These are the kinds of moves that will have a direct impact on the long-term health of the esports ecosystem. As more women play and watch esports, a variety of non-endemic brands are likely to enter the space (or return with a new approach) and help expand the sponsorship market. Cloud9 White has already gained the support of AT&T which is invested in “contributing to real, meaningful change in the industry by giving this powerhouse team and other talented women what they need to succeed.” AT&T first got into esports by partnering with ESL Mobile in 2018.
Traditional female athletes are recognizing business opportunities as well, just like their male counterparts. WNBA star Aerial Powers recently launched a “Powerz Up All 2K Female Tournament,” which enjoyed over 26K views on the first day of NBA 2K competition. Powers, who was signed to Ford Models’ Esports and Gaming division, intends to use Twitch streams and esports to promote diversity in gaming. Interpret fully expects the trend of women in esports to gain more traction, especially as key stakeholders realize that a broader audience will be vital to their business.