Women play lots of Dragon Age, prefer The Old Republic to World of Warcraft

A new study by research firm Quantic Foundry reveals the popular genres of games among women players—and the results aren't exactly what you might expect.

Participants were asked to list their most-played games and their favorite genres. Of the 270,000 people who responded, roughly 18.5% identified as female. Quantic Foundry then crunched those numbers, and determined which genres (and which games among those genres) are dominated by women.

Unsurprisingly, about 70% of respondents who said they play match three games like Candy Crush or family and farm simulators (Farmville) were female, reinforcing previous studies that say women are more likely to play so-called "casual" or social games.

However, Quantic Foundry's survey did make a number of surprising discoveries. Women made up nearly half (48%) of people who played Dragon Age: Inquisition, BioWare's high fantasy role-playing game, compared to the overall average of 23% for the Western RPG genre. Further, while women only make up 16% of the audience for science-fiction-based massively multiplayer online games, 29% of the Star Wars: The Old Republic player base is female. That's significantly more than World of Warcraft, which was only listed as a favorite by 23% of women, well below the high fantasy MMO average of 32%.

Quantic Foundry also asked players to describe their primary motivations for playing games. While men are mostly motivated by competition and destruction, women play games primarily to complete goals or engage in engage in fantasies.

Ultimately, Quantic Foundry concludes that outliers like The Old Republic and Dragon Age show that "the opportunity to attract female gamers may be a lot larger than what the chart is showing," and that there's room for developers to capture a larger female audience in some of the more underrepresented genres—after all, casual games are a great way to introduce both men and women to the larger world of console gaming.