"Where are the women?"
That's the question that kicks off a fascinating blog post from Swen Vincke, the founder of developer Larian Studios. Last year, Larian released Divinity: Original Sin, an old-school RPG that grew quite popular. Now it's gathering funding on Kickstarter for a sequel. But Vincke took a break from the fundraising to dig into some interesting (and potentially alarming) statistics on the studio's fanbase.
Vincke mentioned that at trade shows such as Penny Arcade Expo, where he was showing off Divinity: Original Sin 2 a couple weeks ago, he usually meets one woman interested in the studio's games for every two or three men. But rather than having a fanbase that's 25 to 35 percent female, as that anecdotal evidence might suggest, the actual analytics paint an even less balanced picture.
Polygon reached out to Vincke, and he told us he began pursuing this point of inquiry when he randomly stumbled across Divinity: Original Sin 2's Kickstarter statistics. According to Vincke's research, only just over 4 percent of visitors to the Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter page are women. Likewise women make up a mere 9 percent of the studio's Facebook fans.
"At PAX, I met so many women who played Original Sin that these numbers just did not compute at all," Vincke told Polygon.
Vincke said he tried to dig into Steam stats as well, to see if he could get hard numbers of the gender makeup of the people who actually played Divinity: Original Sin. Sadly, Steam doesn't offer that info, and Vincke guessed that even if it was offered, they couldn't depend on it since many couples share their Steam accounts.
"One part of Original Sin that was always an important idea was that it was made for couples and friends and siblings to play together," Vincke told Polygon. "I really think we achieved this. I get so many stories from people. But it just didn't match with the numbers that we were seeing. We put a lot of effort in so that it's equally appealing to men and women, and it would be really sad if that did not reach its target audience."
So what does Vincke plan to do about these discoveries?
"I reassured the team that we weren't going to let some fancy numbers affect any decisions," he wrote. "We'll happily continue making games we care about and would like to play ourselves."
Nonetheless, Vincke is still looking for information from players and others in the industry on the gender breakdown of who is playing what types of games and whether the studio is "really doing something wrong." It's an interesting issue to see a developer wrestling with so openly, and he plans to write an update with more thoughts and findings on this issue soon.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 has crushed its Kickstarter goal, currently sitting at $1.2 million raised out of an initial $500,000 ask. The campaign has 22 days left to go. For more on the game, check out our preview video below.