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Women’s Esports Breaks Into New Genres with Over 20M Hours Watched

Note: This is a revision of the original Women in Esports article published on 15/3/2024

Women’s esports have historically been outperformed by male esports, in part due to a lack of promotion, but also due to male-centric gaming culture with gatekeepers that discourage female participation. It’s possible that by shining a spotlight on some of the impactful women already making strides in esports, however, that younger women might feel empowered to try their hand at competitive gaming.

Expanding upon last week’s broad discussion of women in streaming, we’re deep-diving into women’s performance in the male-dominated arena of esports. Recent accomplishments by prominent female esports players are proving that women’s events are gaining traction.

Women in Esports are Underrepresented, but Still Driving Viewership

In respect to the industry at large, progress is being made to create space for women’s esports. In 2022, Stream Hatchet tracked 83 women’s esports events, a dramatic improvement from the pandemic-era low of just 19 events. These efforts were rewarded with substantial viewership: Over the past year, women’s esports brought in a total of 20.6M hours watched. It’s clear that there is demand for women’s esports, which could easily be bolstered with more promotion of these events.

The SEA Women’s Tournament for Mobile Legends: Bang Bang was another big win for women’s esports in 2023, bringing in a peak viewership of 958K. This is a dramatic 315% increase from 2022’s peak viewership of just 231K. Even with 18 fewer events in 2023 compared to 2022, both the hours watched and airtime still increased between these years.

Despite the strides being made, women’s esports make up a tiny share of all esports events. In 2023, just 3.3% of all esports events were women’s events. In the same year, these events brought in an underwhelming 0.8% of the total 2.6B hours watched across all esports events. While this data appears to suggest that women’s esports is failing to generate its share of viewership, a far more likely explanation behind the disparity comes from external circumstances such as lack of promotion and key personalities. The examples discussed below show how putting a popular name to women’s esports generates hype on par with men’s events.

Co-Streaming with Popular Female Personalities Brings in Viewers

Co-streaming is the new proven strategy for bringing fans into coverage of live esports. In women’s esports throughout 2023, 41% of viewership was driven by co-streams, with 8.4M hours watched. This is a significant increase of 32% compared to just 6.4M co-stream hours watched in 2022.  The rise in the prevalence of co-streaming viewership for esports stems from a confluence of motivations: Creators want simple ways to make content that also keep them engaged with their community. Co-streams achieve both purposes, with creators tuning their commentary towards their audiences’ desires.

Promoters and publishers have realized the value of co-streams in driving up viewership for esports events. Ubisoft paid co-streamer Jynxzi to cover the Rainbow Six Siege Invitational, a clever promotional strategy that paid dividends. Understanding popular streamers among their games’ fan base is therefore integral to the success of live events – and the same holds true for women’s esports and popular female co-streamers.

Despite being a relative newcomer in the space, Cruelladk took the number 1 spot for female co-streamers over the past six months. Cruelladk is a World of Warcraft Twitch streamer whose popularity has skyrocketed over the past few years. Cruelladk pulled in 485K hours watched over the last six months, primarily for her coverage of the WoW esports Race to World First event. WoW players are notorious for their extended stream times and Cruelladk is no exception, having streamed for 231 hours over this time span.

Long-running streamers like Rivers_gg also featured in the top female co-streamers for the last six months, with 310K hours watched. Rivers_gg’s coverage of the Minecraft Championship #33 and the 2023 VALORANT Champions Tour no doubt drove much of this viewership. Competitive games are a foundational component of Rivers_gg’s content, having originally built her fan base by playing Call of Duty. It’s worth noting that Rivers_gg recently devoted much of her attention to the Queens League, pulling in a massive 1.6M hours watched if this event is included in her viewership over the last six months.

Women’s Esports Shifts Towards VALORANT and Mobile Games

VALORANT was the biggest success among video games for women’s esports, perhaps helped by Riot’s VCT Game Changers program which launched in 2021. 49 VALORANT events were held around the globe, generating 13.6M hours watched. For VALORANT alone, co-streaming made up 49% of all hours watched. Mobile Legends: Bang Bang came in second for viewership, with 5.2M hours watched, suggesting that female esports players may be drawn to the shorter queue times and match durations of the mobile MOBA genre.

English-speaking Audiences Drive Women’s Esports Viewership

English-speaking audiences led the language demographics for women’s esports, generating roughly 40% of all hours watched. This was a significant jump in demand, up 22% from 2022’s English-speaking viewership. Meanwhile, French-speaking audiences had a monumental 671% increase in viewership from 2022 to 2023. This may be due to Team Vitality unveiling their first all-female esports team back in February of 2023 – the French Bees. Again, this proves that esports viewership relies on big personalities to draw in fans.

Women’s esports is far from standing on equal footing with men’s esports. However, with the rise of popular streamers like Rivers_gg and Cruelladk it feels that the exclusionary attitude towards women in esports is lifting. Opportunities are being created for new female champions of the streaming arena to be crowned. Stream Hatchet will be watching as creators and audiences alike venture into this new field.

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