While the video game industry is still dominated by men, the number of women in power at video game companies is growing. But it’s not growing as quickly as it should, given the acceleration of female players around the world, says Wanda Meloni, founder of M2 Research. Women currently comprise less than 15% of the games industry.
In contrast, research firm Newzoo has found that of the 1.2 billion people playing video games globally, 46%, or 570 million, are female, with the highest share of women playing in Latin America (49%) and the lowest in Asia-Pacific region (43%).
“In the U.S., around 170 million Americans play online, mobile, PC, or console games,” said Peter Warman, founder of Newzoo. “Almost half, 48%, of these gamers are female.” Warman notes the majority of female gamers — 55% of them — is older than 30.
The most popular platform to play games on are smartphones and tablets, according to Newzoo research. Three out of four American female gamers, or 61.7 million women, play games on their mobile device.
In the video game industry, Meloni found that there are slightly higher numbers of women working in casual games. She also found more women entrenched in the non-entertainment serious games sector. Women tend to be more dominant in executive production and management rolls where they can oversee the process. Where they fall short is in the more technical capacity of programming and audio design.
“Aside from getting more women to view games as a positive career option for them, we need to support them in all areas of production, design and development,” said Meloni. “Additionally, we need to work on pay equity and more positive mentoring activities.”
Here are 10 powerful women in games today, any of whom would serve as good role models for female gamers looking to enter the interactive entertainment work force.
Casual game publisher and developer King is heading towards an IPO. The maker of hit cross-platform games like Candy Crush Saga and Bubble Witch Saga lured CFO Hope Cochran away from Clearwire Inc. The Swedish mobile game developer, which tests games out on its main site before fine-tuning them for Facebook (FB) and then monetizing them on mobile, is one of the fastest-growing companies out there. King has over 1 billion gameplays per day globally across 150 exclusive games in 14 languages through mobile, Facebook and online. Cochran previously helped raise over $11 billion while at Evant, which bodes well for King’s IPO and aggressive growth plans.
With the proliferation of mobile gaming, there’s been a boom in independent game developers around the world. Even big console makers like Sony (SNE) and Microsoft (MSFT) are embracing indies with their current and next-gen consoles. Stephanie Barish has helped spotlight the greatest minds in independent game development today through IndieCade, which has partnered with established gaming events like Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) and Game Developers Conference and also held its own festivities. Barish previously founded and created the blueprint for the Annenberg Center for Communications’ Institute for Multimedia Literacy (IML) at the University of Southern California.
Mobile game maker Kabam has had great success reaching mainstream gamers through Hollywood licensed product like Fast & Furious 6: The Game (33 million installs worldwide) and original franchises like Kingdoms of Camelot. That franchise, which has made over $200 million to date, saw Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North become the top-grossing app on iOS in 2012. Liu was an initial designer on that game expansion. She has also grown Kabam’s personnel base by 500% in three years with more than 600 employees around the world. Liu was previously Senior User Interface Designer for AOL (AOL).
Emily Greer and her brother Jim created casual video game site Kongregate back in 2006. She led the initial product development of Kongregate, from the first wireframes to live site, including designing the level and points system that lures gamers back to try more of the never-ending stream of free-to-play games. Leading video game retailer GameStop (GME) acquired the site in 2010, connecting its global gamers to the growing library of titles. After expanding its offerings to mobile, Kongregate recently invested $10 million to fund new game developers and help them reach an audience.
As Managing Director of the Casual Games Association, Jessica Tams oversees quarterly Casual Connect Conferences around the world and publishes the Casual Connect Magazine, as well as research reports to over 20,000 industry professionals. The CGA acts as a meeting place for all facets of the casual games business through its sold-out conferences in locales like San Francisco, Amsterdam, and Kiev. Tams saw the worldwide growth of casual games across all platforms early on, having worked as vice president of product planning at FUN Technologies, a Liberty Media (LMCA) company, and helping to create Oberon Media’s Seattle Studio. Tams entered the game industry as a software engineer developing PC and Xbox games like Dungeon Siege and Gabriel Knight III.
The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) is one of the leading global entities that unites game makers from every region through localized, national and global activities. Kate Edwards has spent 16 years in the game development industry, serving as Microsoft’s geopolitical strategist from 1992 through 2005. She used her knowledge of the global games industry to identify geopolitical and cultural risks and opportunities for game franchises like Halo, Age of Empires, Fable, and Dance Central. She co-organized the Game Developer Conference’s Localization Summit.
Kiki Wolfkill is an executive producer at Microsoft’s 343 Industries game studio, which is responsible for the Halo entertainment franchise. In addition to developing Halo 4 and the upcoming Halo 5, Wolfkill has been responsible for the transmedia franchise that has spanned novels, comics, a web series, and an upcoming live-action series produced by Steven Spielberg. Wolfkill began her career as a motion graphics and cinematics artist. She previously served as director of art at Microsoft Studios, working with game developers on franchises like Forza Motorsport, Project Gotham Racing, Gears of War, and Mass Effect.
Naughty Dog has been pushing the envelope when it comes to cinematic interactive entertainment since the first Uncharted game took the game industry by storm. With each sequel, as well as the new The Last of Us, Amy Hennig has overseen everything from the performance-captured actors that bring the virtual characters to life to the rich and addictive gameplay. Hennig is a big reason that Sony has a steady stream of must-have exclusives for PlayStation from Naughty Dog. Before joining the Santa Monica-based studio in 2003, she worked at Crystal Dynamics on the Soul Reaver and Legacy of Kain titles.
As senior vice president of Maxis, Lucy Bradshaw oversees The Sims and SimCity at Electronic Arts (EA). Bradshaw has been with EA since 1997, working with Maxis founder Will Wright on bestselling franchises that attracted new females to gaming. Over half of Sims players are female. She’s played a pivotal role in evolving The Sims, which has sold over 100 million copies (The Sims 4 arrives next fall). Prior to Maxis, Bradshaw worked at George Lucas’s LucasArts Entertainment, overseeing the development of games like The Dig, Secret of Monkey Island 2, and Rebel Assault.
Jade Raymond heads up Ubisoft’s Toronto studio, which opened in 2010 and is on track to grow to 800 employees by 2020. She’s responsible for new intellectual property and is currently working on five titles. Raymond serves as executive producer of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell franchise, including games, books, and movies. She made her name in the industry as the co-creator and executive producer on the original Assassin’s Creed game at Ubisoft Montreal. That game went on to become the fastest-selling new intellectual property in gaming in 20 years and has sold over 57 million copies worldwide. Having recently completed Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist, she’s now working on a new Assassin’s Creed game (not Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag), as well as the open-world Watch Dogs game set in Chicago. The former programmer has focused on blockbuster game franchises and never looked back.