We believe it's critical to shine a light on the importance of women in the gaming industry. Take the research we launched in 2020 around the mobile gaming audience, for example, with the goal of shattering some stereotypical gamer myths. We realized there’s a need for continued demystifying efforts on our part, as game developers and advertisers begin to recognize the power of developing games for women and meeting them on mobile where they spend time. We knew it was time to dig even deeper, and had our Head of Ecosystem Partnerships, Michal Jacobsberg-Reiss, a product and gaming industry expert, sit down with Electronic Arts’ (EA’s) Beth Anne Smith, Sr. Director, Strategy and Operations to talk through the evolving role of women in the gaming industry, and why it matters.
MoPub: Beth Anne, tell us a bit about your journey in the gaming industry
Beth Anne: For as long as I can remember, gaming has been a part of my life. I have fond memories of hours spent balanced on the arm of my dad’s office chair, while we marched through Britannia playing Ultima on an Apple IIe. And it’s the years (and years) I spent developing a passion for Richard Garriot’s Ultima franchise that landed me my dream job as a writer at Electronic Arts during the dot-com boom.
Once the bubble burst, however, there were still jobs to do and a quarter of the people left to do them. So, I moved away from the creative side of the business and more into the marketing side, where I initiated the CRM program in North America and Europe before transitioning into the product side of the business, working on franchises such as Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and The Godfather.
I have had three tours of duty at EA, the second of which kicked off in 2012 as director of product marketing for one of EA’s first mobile titles, as well as marketing and merchandising director of Pogo, EA’s online subscription service. When I returned again in 2014, I resumed my role at Pogo, and soon found myself General Manager of the studio. As GM, I learned how motivating it was for me to lead a team of developers, enabling them to do the magic they do. My philosophy is and has always been, happy people do great work.
Subsequent to Pogo, I became GM of another studio before stepping into a role to develop EA’s first distributed development studio. All-in-all, I have loved my journey in the gaming industry. And I’m fortunate to have been able to do what I love.
MoPub: What is the biggest misconception about women and gaming?
Beth Anne: The biggest misconception about women and gaming is that women only like to play casual games … that’s false! Many women (at least before the pandemic) had more of a “pick up and play” mentality, as a function of integrating gaming into the daily grind and responsibilities, not because they lack the interest in or capacity for mid-hard core games.
MoPub: How did the game industry evolve around building games for women? Is there such a thing as a game for women?
Beth Anne: I think the game industry has evolved around building products for women no differently than any other industry, which is to say that women aren’t necessarily the primary focus, historically speaking. As far as whether or not there is such a thing as a game for women -- that’s a hard one to answer. I think games are a reflection of the audience playing them, which happens to have been predominantly men, up until now. Now that, thanks to the growth of mobile gaming, there are as many female gamers as there are male gamers; if we’re smart as an industry, the way we develop games should focus less on whether an individual is female or male and more on personal preferences, needs and behaviors, all of which transcend one’s sex.
MoPub: How/when do you see women playing games? How does that fit into their daily activities?
Beth Anne: If there are kids in the mix, I’d say that I definitely see women playing games in the evening, once kids have gone to bed, and typically they do so by multitasking between watching TV and/or online shopping. Especially in a pandemic world where everyone is home juggling responsibilities, it can be difficult to carve out time for leisure these days. If there’s ever such a thing as “normal” again, I think gaming will go back to those “pick up and play” moments throughout the day that I mentioned earlier.
MoPub: When it comes to mobile games, what are the main trends that you’ve observed over the past few years?
Beth Anne: I see two key trends emerging: One is realizing and acknowledging that porting an HD experience to a mobile platform does not make it a mobile game. In this sense, I’m not talking about the technical limitations between the platforms, but instead about the emergence of UX and UI as specialized crafts of emphasis versus an afterthought in mobile development. The other trend I’m seeing is more acknowledgment and acceptance of how different cultures play and interact with games.
MoPub: As a game developer and a woman, what do you think about developing a game that speaks to women? How does it change the way you market the game, if at all?
Beth Anne: Developing a game that speaks to women is reliant upon a deep understanding of their needs and behaviors, both implicit and explicit. The marketing of anything — particularly when it comes to digital marketing — would and should be targeted at speaking to a known, specific audience, and speaking to them where they are. Given the continued growth of gaming, game experiences are quickly becoming the place to be (versus social media, for example) when looking at where and how groups of users of different demographics are gathering online.
MoPub: When it comes to ads in games, why do you think an advertiser should consider placing their ad in a game?
Beth Anne: In my opinion, I think advertisers today need to integrate their messages into the experience. Brand integration, and the virtual application of a brand into entertainment, is far more impactful than an interruptive experience that breaks the fiction for a player. The buying power and disposable income of gamers alone establishes a strong case for advertising in-game, and in-app advertising offers discoverability and detailed trackability. That, combined with the immersive experience gaming provides, makes in-game advertising a no brainer.