Skillz Blog

The Demographic Difference Between PC & Mobile Gaming

At Skillz, we believe in the power of competitive gaming to boost engagement and revenue by bringing more fun, exciting experiences to gamers. Many people have an idea in their heads of the kind of players that competitive games attract. However, this demographic may not look quite the way you imagine it.

 
Let’s start with this thought exercise. Take a moment to let the phrase “competitive gamer” roll around in your head. Close your eyes and try to visualize a competitive gamer. What does that person look like? What kind of game are they playing, and on what platform? Are they using any other equipment for their gaming?

If you’re like many readers, you may have imagined a young man – likely in his teens or early 20’s – hunched over playing a fast-paced shooter like “Counter-Strike,” a MOBA like “League of Legends,” or a Battle Royale game like “Fortnite.” You probably saw them playing on a PC or high-end console, possibly sitting in a custom gaming chair with a light-up keyboard or gaming mouse. Perhaps you also imagined them playing on stage in a tournament or sitting in a home broadcasting studio, streaming their gameplay on the internet.

For what it’s worth, that’s a valid picture. According to eSportsEarnings.com, the top competitive game (in terms of prizes awarded) last year was “Dota 2,” a popular MOBA. The top 10 games listed on this site also include four MOBAs, three FPS games, two RTS games, and one collectible card game. These high-profile eSports are played mostly on PCs or consoles, and the player communities are overwhelmingly young and male.

However, it’s not the only picture out there. Skillz – and the thousands of games on our competition platform – is proof that eSports don’t have to be first-person action games played on your PC, but rather, can be fun and engaging titles in a variety of genres, right there on your phone. Skillz is also living proof that leading competitive gamers aren’t all male. As Rolling Stone reported, seven of our top ten players last year were women. In fact, our highest-earning player of 2017 is a woman who earned more than $420,000 in that year alone.

This picture of gender diversity among competitive gamers is more common than you might think. Gaming research firm Quantic Foundry surveyed hundreds of thousands of gamers in an effort to understand why people want to play games. Their studies resulted in a model of 12 main gaming motivations, of which competition is the second most common. When they studied the intersection of gender and competitiveness, they did find that male gamers are somewhat more competitive than females, but that other factors (like age) have a much larger impact on players’ interest in competition. In fact, as men and women move into their middle-aged years, they reach almost identical levels of interest in competition.

The news that competition is a major motivation for gamers isn’t new. Richard Bartles listed it as one of the four main player motivations back in 1996 in his study of MUD players, and other gaming psychology mavens like Nicole Lazzaro and Marc LeBlanc have been talking for years about the engaging emotions that tumble out of competition. Competition offers players a variety of psychological rewards, including a clear and increasing sense of mastery and the ability to accurately measure themselves against their opponents. The sting of a competitive loss can be highly motivating to many players, since it sends them a wakeup call about the need to improve their skills.

Nevertheless, in a world symbolized and largely represented by young, male competitive gamers, Skillz has managed to build a player base that is more than 50% female. What is it about the Skillz offering that appeals to men and women alike, creating a fair, inclusive environment that’s so rare in this industry?

First, we start by recognizing that an incredibly wide range of games can make for great eSports. While the vast majority of high-profile eSports involve intense action and violent conflict, some of the top games on Skillz include solitaire, gem-matching, and “Breakout-like” games. These mechanics are more familiar and approachable, which make them accessible to a wide range of users.

Second, we’re focused on mobile games. Many PC eSports require players to invest thousands of dollars on high-end gaming rigs with the very latest technology and the fastest components. This means that only the most ardent gamers can afford to participate at the highest levels, excluding other interested competitive players with competing financial priorities. Skillz brings eSports right to the world’s mobile phones, letting players enjoy our games with what they already have in their pockets and purses at no incremental cost.

Third, we work hard to ensure competition on our platform is fair. Our back-end machine-learning technology carefully monitors and rates each player based on their tournament results, and matches them with players in the same skill range. Players like to challenge opponents of similar skill levels, and they generally dislike competing in lopsided matches. Ensuring our tournaments are fair makes the game more enjoyable and appropriately challenging for our players, while preventing blowouts and toxicity.

Last but not least, we offer a variety of competitions and prizes. Today, most of the attention on the eSports industry centers around high-level tournaments for big-dollar prizes. We think that’s awesome, and we’re glad that there are opportunities for talented players to compete for millions of dollars in prize money. However, we don’t think the competition should end with just the top 1% of elite pro gamers. Skillz enables all players to compete for virtual currency or real-world prizes at any level. We give them the opportunity to play in not only huge tournaments with tens of thousands of competitors, but also in head-to-head matches for prizes large and small. This makes competitive play more enticing and less intimidating for a wide variety of players, allowing players at all levels to be recognized and rewarded for their achievements.

So, when you think about competitive gaming, try to look beyond the stereotypical image of a young, adrenaline-rushed man shooting bad guys on a souped-up PC. Skillz has shown the world that a huge variety of players – young and old, male and female, casual and hardcore – enjoy the chance to measure themselves against their competitors in a wide variety of games. And, in partnership with 13,000+ game developers, we’re excited to serve a player community of unprecedented diversity.

If you would like to learn more about how fairplay and demographic targeting are key to driving the success of a game, then register for our November 28th webinar!