Submitted by Gekko 1048d ago | opinion piece

Why Games With Female Protagonists Don't Sell, and What It Says About The Industry

Becky Chambers:

So, here’s a question: why are female video game protagonists so rare? Their absence is palpable, and we talk often of how we want to see more of them, but the why of it is typically addressed with generalizations about target audiences and a lack of women in game development. Penny Arcade Report senior editor Ben Kuchera wanted better answers than that, so he did what any red-blooded gamer would do — he found some numbers to crunch.

As detailed in an editorial earlier this week, Kuchera contacted Geoffrey Zatkin, Chief Operating Officer of EEDAR, essentially the market research firm for the gaming industry. They looked at a sample of 669 action games, shooters, and RPGs, all taken from the seventh-generation console cycle (that’s Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii — in other words, everything in the last seven years). Less than 300 games in their sample had the option of a female lead. As for female only leads…a whopping 24. (Culture, Industry, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360)

dedicatedtogamers  +   1048d ago
Perhaps it just goes to show that our "creative and artistic" game developers aren't as artistic as they think, since they're utterly incapable of creating a female lead that's remotely interesting to women or to men.

Thing is, the majority of female gamers (and this includes Farmville-rs, Hangins with Friends-ers, etc) are not at all interested in a story. They don't care. It does't matter if the lead is male, female, or a garbage can. Most female gamers simply do not care. And yes, I'm aware that there are some women out there who love Final Fantasy 10, or Kingdom Hearts, or Phoenix Wright, or Halo, or Red Dead Redemption, or whatever. But I'm talking about the majority of women.

You don't believe me? Over the past 15 years, what games have exploded in popularity with women? The Sims? No story. Roller Coaster Tycoon? No story. Nintendogs? No story. Mario Kart? No story. The aforementioned Farmville? No story. Wii Fit? Wii Sports? Just Dance? Guitar Hero and Rock Band?
#1 (Edited 1048d ago ) | Agree(4) | Disagree(7) | Report | Reply
DryPancake  +   1048d ago
Maybe because the majority of the gaming population is male developers want players to connect to the protagonist more, although lots of male gamers prefer Fem Shep. Also they can add a relationship between the protagonist(male) and an NPC (girl) to make it more emotional.
violents  +   1048d ago
what about tomb raider, who doesnt like playing as lara croft? I loved amost every tomb raider. And I'm playing gravity rush on my vita right now, its alot of fun and the protagonist is female. I'm sure there's been a few others but all in all there isn't a whole lot of female leads in games and I think it has more to do with the fact that there are more males in the industry than females and when they try to make a believable female lead it comes off as stupid or trivial, they cant ever seem to get it just right. Beyond two souls looks like it gunna be a good one too. The ladies are late to the game, its been a mans world with gaming for a long time. Give it some time and women will be just as prevalent.
BaYo182  +   1048d ago
Heavenly Sword was my first PS3 game great game, great graphics, EXCELLENT STORY and it features a FEMALE LEAD to bad the sales hurt the game and it's future sequels!
Blastoise  +   1048d ago
I imagine Bioshock infinite will prove this article wrong
Kur0  +   1048d ago
except you play as a man...
Blastoise  +   1048d ago

Really? I thought you played as that Elizabeth woman?

My bad...
matgrowcott  +   1048d ago
I think there's an edge not examined in the article, but that I think could be an important part of this. Of the games with female only leads, how many people have accused the developers of doing nothing but appealing to the male market? How many people have become offended because they aren't able to differentiate a "bad" character with an attractive one?

How many people believe that a young beautiful girl, trapped on a island with a lot of bad men, isn't at risk of rape and that hinting at that makes her a weaker character?

These are issues that don't crop up with male characters, and female gamers, largely, are happy to play as men so long as the story is good. If you can have all the benefits without any of the negatives, the only problem is in people saying "where are all the female leads?"

So long as the games are good, the majority don't give a damn.
DragonKnight  +   1048d ago
*facepalm* Another of these articles. *sigh*
ape007  +   1047d ago
agree, Perfect Dark 64 is perhaps the best game ever, sold mellions, has Female character, Joanna dark U Rule
#3.1 (Edited 1047d ago ) | Agree(0) | Disagree(0) | Report | Reply
fermcr  +   1048d ago
Tomb Raider sells pretty well.

Rockstar should do a GTA with a main female protagonist, it would sell.
Knight_Crawler  +   1048d ago
Do you know how much sh!t R* would get from the media and feminist groups?

R* would be restricted on what they can do and can not do.

How will the media react when you go picking male prostitutes or start getting beat up by some thugs.

Also when I play a game I like to think that I am the character that I playing and I do not feel right playing a girl or a woman.

The only solution to this is to make you customize your own character.
violents  +   1048d ago
why would feminists care if GTA had a female lead. What, a strong female protagonist, you better put her back in the kitchen, right? I don't think you'll ever hear a feminist say that.

I do agree with you that some games just wouldn't feel right if your a woman. Sometimes it works though. Tomb raiders are excellent examples.
persona4chie  +   1048d ago
the first problem is the industry and gaming as a whole is male dominated
i love games with female protagonists they are some of my favs but

problem #2 sexuality plays too big a role in games with or without female protagonists
i love bayonetta
i love tomb raider
i love bloodrayne i love them for the fun factor
it's not wrong to have a nice looking female protagonist but the go haywire and focus on the eyecandy and sexuality ( IN SOME CASES) and not enough into a great story and fun gameplay.

remember the days when female protagonist boobs didnt jiggle and bounce? now its all over the place.

in the above series i mentioned
rayne boobs jiggled
bayonetta inappropriately dressed ( at least not moderately dressed) and was HIGHLY sexual
just the other day while playing tomb raider trilogy on cutscenes laras boobs jiggled when theyed be easily noticed but didnt jiggle during basic things like running when her back would be turned to the player

dont even get me started on lollipop chainsaw
sdozzo  +   1048d ago
ape007  +   1047d ago
Joanna too but sadly Perfect Dark Zero was no where near the original
DEATHxTHExKIDx  +   1048d ago
I think my favorite game with a female lead is Bayonetta. FFVI was pretty damn good. FFXIII was ok even tho lightning was B*tch but, she was a solider so whateves.
Tonester925  +   1048d ago
Because they have to have a big butt, big titties, and camera views that zoom in and out on those spots in random situations.

"The character falls and then her titties start bouncing" I can't take them serious that's why I like the Uncharted series. Serious female characters. Looking forward to The Last of US
Picnic  +   1048d ago
'They looked at a sample of 669 action games.... Less than 300 games in their sample had the option of a female lead.'

Not bad figures. And it doesn't necessarily mean that the other half only allowed male leads either as some may be indeterminate e.g. animals, extra-terestrials.

'As for female only leads…a whopping 24.'
OK, it's not a high figure. But the inherent problem of statistics is the question 'why are they concentrating on that and not on some other criteria'? Why should the largeness of their numbers necessarily correlate in to a larger representation in videogames? On that basis, insects and animals of all kinds should be holding up banners claiming that they have been underrepresented ever since their early 90s heyday of Sonic the hedghog and all.

Some famous games I have played with female only leads:

Beyond Good and Evil
Eternal Darkness
Heavenly Sword
Perfect Dark
Perfect Dark Zero
Metroid Prime
Mirrors Edge
Silent Hill 3
Tomb Raider

Some of these sold very well, some sold OK. But lots of gamers know them. And I bet that more males mention them than females do by a LONG shot.

I see loads of games with female leads, whether they are the sole choice in the game is irrelevent to me. The issue, if any, is likely to be that when a great game with a female lead comes along NOT ENOUGH FEMALES BUY IT.

If you're not buying the games, tirelessly telling other people about the games, then don't be annoyed that there aren't more of those games.
#9 (Edited 1048d ago ) | Agree(5) | Disagree(1) | Report | Reply
rextraordinaire  +   1048d ago
And what about Xenosaga? Both Kosmos and Shion were nice female leads, in my opinion.

And Okami? Yeah, a wolf, but a female wolf nonetheless.
#10 (Edited 1048d ago ) | Agree(3) | Disagree(0) | Report | Reply
konnerbllb  +   1048d ago
grifter024  +   1048d ago
So we go from arguing about story in games, to graphics in games, and now to which gender the main character is.

This is embarrassing.
Tetsujin  +   1048d ago
I personally don't care if it's a main male/female role, a good game is a good game regardless. Having an option to customize your character helps a lot however I'm not going to judge a game just because it's a main male/female role.
vork77  +   1048d ago
so metroid is not selling good?
optimus  +   1048d ago
the article did mention that games that sell well with a female lead are a small percentage compared to the rest with male leads...

the problem isn't the industry as much as it is gamers...there are just waaay too many male gamers compared to females. of those male gamers that buy games consistently are teens to early 20's... developers look at what they are buying and make games targeting that audience...it's a bit of a "catch 22" really.
if they don't make the female focused games they won't get the female gamers, and you won't get the female gamers until they make the female games...generally speaking of course... sure there were a lot of female gamers playing tomb raider at one point but do we get tomb raider games nearly every year??...there you go.
soniqstylz  +   1048d ago
FemShep is not amused.
NeoTribe  +   1047d ago
Maybe its because there's never been a game worth playin that happened to have a female protaginist. Ever think of that? If gta had one it would be just as succesful.
422185  +   1042d ago
Wish there were more games with female lead/option.

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