Video gaming is a popular activity among females, who represent 41% of gamers, according to the Entertainment Software Association, and 35% of professional esports players, according to Interpret. But the world of professional esports has been a notoriously unwelcoming space for women. They experience discrimination and harassment and lack the opportunities offered to the male players. The top female esports players earn just 2% of what the average top-100 men’s players make, according to betting platform Oddsmonkey.
Things are starting to change, however. Just in the last two months, several female-centric initiatives have launched to raise awareness, support women in the industry, and create more opportunities for players to rise through the ranks. This trend may ultimately pave the way for more commercial opportunities for females, including licensing deals, similar to what has happened with athletes and teams in the women’s pro sports industry over the past few years.
Recent initiatives have touched all areas of esports and have involved a number of different actions:
- Raising the profile of all-female teams. Rix.GG signed a Valorant team, known as Lightning, consisting of female players from the U.K. and E.U. The team had been winning tournaments under the name LaGals before joining the leading esports group. While the first all-female team, League of Legends specialist Siren, launched back in 2013, it and other female teams have often endured harassment and pushback. Joining major esports organizations is one way for such teams to gain acceptance.
- Setting up all-female tournaments. Esports organization Team Dignitas announced an all-female Valorant tournament with 32 teams, powered by Nerd Street Gamers and airing on Dignitas’ Twitch channel. Makeup brand Beautyblend partnered with esports organization Knights to create another female-only Valorant tournament, representing the first esports venture for the former. Female-focused tournaments centering on a variety of other games have also been on the rise of late.
- Promoting content. Earlier this month, e.l.f. Cosmetics launched a Twitch channel and an initiative called “e.l.f. You” to empower female gaming content creators. The launch included a Twitch event featuring several female streamers and esports players. Women still represent a small portion of the top 200 names in esports content streaming, but their numbers are growing.
- Offering funding and support. HyperX, a leading gaming peripherals provider now owned by HP, partnered with the 1,000 Dreams Fund to offer scholarships to 10 female high school and college students who have been selected for Dream Funds’ 2021 BroadcastHer Academy to support female gamers. HyperX’s brand ambassadors include a number of female gaming streamers.
- Discussing and addressing challenges. Esports organization Misfits Gaming Group introduced a Women of Misfits speaker series to raise awareness of sexual harassment, underrepresentation, and other issues affecting women in the esports and video game production industries. Speakers are from a wide variety of careers, not just focused on esports. The Knights, an esports organization based in Pittsburgh, recently extended its partnership with PNC Bank for a Women in Esports Steering Committee, charged with developing solutions for gender disparities in esports, through 2024.
- Leveling the playing field. Formula One inaugurated a “women’s wildcard” for one player during the Pro Exhibition, an event that is used by F1 esports teams to add to their player rosters for the F1 Pro Series. The intent of the wildcard is to make it easier for female gamers to get into the organization’s esports world championship, which has consisted only of male players, although the wild card does not guarantee a spot.
- Bringing in female ownership. Rachel “Valkyrae” Hofstetter, who has become one of the top Twitch streamers due to her content tied to the hit game Among Us, became one of the first female co-owners in esports, taking a part-interest in 100 Thieves, a big esports organization.
- Creating betting opportunities. Betway, an online bookmaker, expanded its deal with MIBR, an esports organization in Brazil, to add the latter’s female Counter-Stroke: Global Offensive team to its offerings. This marks Betway’s first partnership with a female team. MIBR signed the members of the team in January.
As these recent examples show, marketers, especially from the gaming and beauty/health sectors, are stepping up to promote and finance some of the growing number of female-centric esports initiatives. In addition to the brands mentioned, others involved in esports ventures of various sorts include Benefit Cosmetics, L’Occitane, Sephora, GameStop, Tampax, and Johnson & Johnson’s Carefee brand, among others. Some of these may lead to merchandise collaborations with female pro gamers as part of promotional relationships. If history is any guide, such ventures would, eventually, lead more licensing deals involving women players and teams in general.
The new edition of Raugust Communications’ e-newsletter comes out next Tuesday, May 18. The Licensing Topic of the Month will take a look at some of the changes in licensing contract terms that have come about during the pandemic, while the Datapoint research spotlight will focus on beauty collaborations. If you do not yet subscribe to this free publication, you can do so here.