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Will men buy games without other men on the cover? Statistical Analysis

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Eddie Makuch recently wrote an article titled, "Naughty Dog: Games don't need males on the cover to sell." Recently, Ashley Johnson, the voice actress for Ellie in Last of Us, stated:

"I feel like they dont put women on the covers because theyre afraid that it wont sell," Johnson said. "Its all gamers really know--and I dont want to be sexist by any means--but I get the feeling, generally, that they think games wont sell as well with a woman on the cover, compared to some badass dude on the front."

This was in response to Ellie being front and center in the cover art for Last of Us versus Joel. Naughty Dog creative director, Neil Druckmann, responded to the concerns saying:

"I believe theres a misconception that if you put a girl or a woman on the cover, the game will sell less."

With all the Gamespot articles regarding the degree of sexism in the gaming industry in response to #1ReasonWhy campaign, I was excited to have a claim that we could actually find some hard numbers on. So, I went to Good Old Games, VG Chartz, and Steam to assess the situation and here is what I found.


GoG (150 titles on best seller list)

Male Only Cover: 30 (20%)

Female Only Cover: 9 (6%)

Male and Female Cover: 11 (7.3%)

Android/Uknown/Alien/Monster/Vehicle only Cover: 27 (18%)

No character cover/logo/scenery/title: 73 (48.7%)


VG Chartz (72 of the best selling titles of 2012)

Male Only Cover: 39 (54%)

Female Only Cover: 3 (4%)

Male and Female Cover: 7 (10%)

Android/Unknown/Alien/Monster/Vehicle only Cover: 17 (24%)

No character cover/logo/scenery/title: 6 (8%)

NOTE: I only used 72 titles on VG Chartz due to the same title being found on the top 100 sellers just on a different platforms


Steam (Top 100 Selling 12/12/12 at 1700)

Male Only Cover: 39%

Female Only Cover: 1%

Male and Female Cover: 9%

Android/Unknown/Alien/Monster/Vehicle only Cover: 16%

No character cover/logo/scenery/title: 35%

NOTE: Amount of DLC in top 100 list inflated the number of title only cover "art".


While crunching the numbers, it seemed to me that the drastic increase in males on the cover seemed to be related to the vast increase in the sales of shooters, sports games, and mario titles which tend to be male covers when compared to the older titles on GoG, where fantasy titles seemed to be more likely to use monsters or include women. It should also be noted that women featured on the box cover were rarely dressed in permiscuous clothing. I did not take the time to differentiate on the covers with both genders who was more front and center. Ideally to investigate the claim, I would isolate variables, but this is nearly impossible for the layman.

So what are your thoughts on the issue? Is this simply the logical connection between men being the majority of the protagonist in video games, or is there something deeper going on here? Post your comments below.


EDIT NOTE: Hairygrim critique saying, "You can't make a claim that it's the cover affecting it when you're changing so many other variables too. Remember correlation ? causation.

Not only that but you're ignoring the fact that the distribution of male-exclusive/ female-exclusive/ both/ other/ neither isn't equal"

This is very true and must be taken into account, but if trying to address the claim that men will not purchase games without other men on the cover or would not purchase the title if a female is front and center, the mere existence of "best sellers" having women front and center does provide some insight when pooling data from 3 sources. I acknowledge that this is layman statistics and has several limitations, but I'm working with the available data.

Where did the fun go?

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"Every gamer is also an amateur reviewer, and we're constantly dissecting what we play, thinking about what we'll say in the review we'll inevitably put up on Gamespot. Rather than just play the game, we're thinking about clipping and draw-distance and bloom and jaggies. Do we ever just play to play anymore? And can a fond memory be formed when we're constantly nit-picking everything we do in a game?" -Earththatwas

While I was reading Earththatwas blog, an interesting idea hit me. Is there anybody out there that actually plays games for fun and nothing else? Of course, there are people playing for the sole purpose of fun, but I'm here to point out to you that many of us aren't.

There are numerous reasons that some us stay glued to the TV even though we're steaming like a kettle. I'm going to point outa couplereasons and examples of how I can tell the majority of gamers aren't playing for fun.

Achievements/Trophies: How many of us are guilty ofbuying a game for the sole purpose of Achievments/Trophies. Ok, maybe you haven't? What about playing a game and deciding you had to beat that game on the hardest difficulty for the achievement or trophy. At first, you try to convince yourself, "Oh, I enjoy the challenge." Maybe so, but when your madder than a hatter yelling at the TV, throwing controllers like boomerangs, or just downright turning you into an absolute grouch; It makes it very difficult to believe you're playing for the sole purpose of "the challenge you enjoy." Remember the days of ye ol' N64 and Playstation when at least you were rewarded for your troubles by unlocking something cool like a cheat or a character skin. Now, you just have something flash up at the top of the screen and say good job you did it! What a waste, and yet I'm totally guilty of doing it.

The rise of competitive online gaming and it's pitfalls: Many of us in the gaming community play to win. That's it. It doesn't matter how mundane the experience long as I'm winning. Perhaps, the perfect example of this phenomenon is Left 4 Dead. For those of you that haven't played the title, the 5th segment in Left 4 Dead is called the finale. It's supposed to be the most intense part of the game. You have hordes or zombies attacking you, and multiple special infected, and multiple tanks (the hardest boss in the game). However, the hordes of zombies can easily be countered by camping in a corner and smacking away. It makes the game very easy and you're almost guaranteed to win by playing this way, but is it fun? No, no, no it isn't! It's not fun for the survivors, it's definitly not fun for the infected, and it makes the whole experience much less intense and very dry. So why do it? Because most of us are too focused on winning instead of having fun. This notion that if I'm winning; I'm definitly having fun doesn't apply to all scenarios.

I could write up example after example of how we as a gaming community have lost sight of the most important part of gaming; the fun. However, you get the idea! What does this to us? Do we, as human beings, just have this innate sense of competition that makes it hard to focus on having fun? While instead, we focus on trying to be better than the next guy. I'm not sure. Post your comments and thoughts.