UPDATE 07/05/13: The demographics of video gamers has changed profoundly since I wrote this post nearly eight years ago. I urge you, therefore, to visit the Video Games feed of my e-Strategy Trends blog, where you’l find a continually updated collection of video game trends and statistics for marketing, public relations, advertising and strategic communications professionals. Finally, here’s a segment from a recent episode of my Beyond Social Media podcast, where I discuss the demographics of American Gamers:
Video Games rival the movies in popularity. In 2003, total game sales hit $7 billion and in 2004, sales reached $7.3 billion; that compares to the $9 billion in 2003 movie sales.
But those who play video games are hard for marketers to reach because the time they devote to gaming displaces traditional media like television. Ziff Davis’ Digital Gaming in America study shows that of the 76.2 million people in the United States play videogames, nearly a quarter of them “watched less television than last year and expect to cut their viewing time even further this year” and that “24 percent of gamers reduced their TV watching over the last year, and a further 18 percent expect to do so in the next twelve months.
Video gamers are generally spending less time watching television this year compared to last year: they watched 16 hours per week in 2005 versus 18 hours per week in 2004, representing an 11.1% decrease.”
The exception is among hard-core gamers, for whom “High Definition Television (HDTV) viewership increased to 18% in 2005 versus 7% last year.”
Gamers are, however, connected to each other through online gaming services such as Microsoft’s Xbox Live.
Given the popularity of this form of entertainment, it is important that marketers understand gamers.
The Demographics of Video Gamers
The Entertainment Software Association’s 2005 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry report [PDF] reveals that 75% of heads of households play computer or video games and that the average game player’s age is 30 years old. Not surprisingly, a significant percentage of gamers are teenagers: 35% of gamers are under 18 years old. Most gamers, however, 43%, to be exact, are in the 18-49 year old age bracket, while only 19% are over 50 years of age.
Men Vs. Women Gamers
Men comprise 55% of gamers, compared to the 43% of women gamers but adult women gamers comprise a larger portion of the gaming population (28%) than buys 6-17 years of age (21%), so it looks as if women are beginning to adopt video games as a form of entertainment. This trend seems to mirror Internet use; when the Web first became a popular phenomenon, most surfers were men but women soon caught up.
Video Game Sales
The average age of the heavy video game buyer is thirty-seven. Adult gamers have been playing, on average, for 12 years and 53% of current gamers expect to be playing as much or more than they currently do ten years from now.
Fifty-three percent of the video games sold in 2004 were rated E for Everyone; 30% were rated T for Teen; and only 16% were rated M for Mature.
Action video games were by far the best selling genre for console games in 2004 at 30% of console game sales; sports titles made up nearly 18% of sales. Shooters (9.6%), Children & Family Entertainment (9.5%), Racing (9.4%), and Role-Playing (9%) all constituted approximately nine percent of sales, while fighting games had the least successful sales with 5.4%.
Conversely, strategy games were the most popular computer games sold, constituting (26.9%), with Family & Children’s games coming in a close second with 20.3% of sales. Shooters made up 16.3% of computer game sales in 2004, while Role-Playing (10%), Adventure (5.9%), Sports (5.4%) and Action (3.9%) made up the remaining sales.
The top five video games of 2004 by units sold were
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas [M]
- Halo 2 [M]
- Madden NFL 2005 [E]
- ESPN NFL 25K [E]
- Need for Speed: Underground 2 [E]
The top five computer games of 2004 by units sold were
- The Sims 2 [T]
- Doom 3 [M]
- World of Warcraft [T]
- Half-Life 2 [M]
- The Sims 2 Special Edition [T]
In 2004, 12 games sold more than one million units (a record), nine of which were rated E for Everyone or T for Teen. Fifty-two console games sold more than a half-million units.
Forty-seven percent of Americans have bought or plan to buy one or more games this year.
Gamer Behavior Away From the Controller
Contrary to the popular stereotype of pasty-faced wimps who never see the light of day, gamers are actually quite active away from the controller. While gamers spend 6.8 hours a week playing games, they spend 23.4 hours per week exercising or playing sports, volunteering or engaging in religious activities, creative pursuits, cultural activities, or reading.
Seventy-nine percent of gamers say they exercise or play a sport on average of 20 hours a month. Forty-five percent of gamers volunteer an average of 5.4 hours a month. Ninety-three percent of gamers read books or daily newspapers regularly, and 62% consistently attend cultural events such as concerts, the theater, or visit museums.
Parents & Video Games
Parents are nearly always (92%) present when their kids purchase or rent video games and 87% of the time, kids receive their parent’s permission before buying or renting a game. Thirty-two percent of parents play video games with their kids weekly, because they were asked to (68%), see it as a good opportunity to socialize with their child (68%), because they think it’s fun (66%), or it’s a good opportunity to check out the game’s content (56%). Sixty-three percent of parents think that games are a positive part of their kid’s lives.
Who Plays Online?
Forty-two percent of the most frequent gamers say they play online. Similar to offline games, 56% of online gamers are male and 44% are female. Far and away, the most popular online games are the Puzzle/Board/Game Show/Trivia/Card game variety (56.8% ), while Action/Sports/Strategy/Role-Playing games making up (19%), Shockwave/Flash/Browser-Based Games (9.5%), Persistent Multi-Player Universes (9.1%), and Other (8.5%) rounding out the rest of the genres.
Thirty-Four percent off heads of households play games on a wireless device, such as a cell phone or PDA, which is up from the 20% who did so in 2002.