John Poelking
John Poelking is a Gaming Analyst at Mintel. His passion for live entertainment, movies, television, video games, technology and travel informs his sector knowledge.

Source: Sony – PS5

This week marks the beginning of a new era in mainstream gaming. After seven years, Xbox and Playstation will both be releasing new consoles within two days of each other. Preorders for the Xbox Series X and PS5 have been swallowed up in seconds, and a limited supply on launch day should create high demand for both consoles in the months to come. As the holiday season starts to heat up, here are some of the biggest impacts of next-generation consoles that brands should keep an eye on.

A boon to a growing console audience

Data from Mintel’s upcoming ‘Gaming Trends: 2021’ report shows the size of the gaming audience has remained relatively stable from 2019 with one exception: the share of console gamers grew from 30% in 2019 to 35% in 2020. While not as large of an audience as mobile or computer gaming, console players tend to be some of the most engaged in the gaming market. Interest in console gaming will be invigorated by the launches and further developments surrounding next-generation consoles. The release of these devices appeals directly to an audience of players who drive passion and a sense of community within gaming culture. This growing audience of dedicated players should continue to keep the conversation surrounding next-generation consoles going well beyond the new year, making them an important group of consumers for brands to court throughout the holiday season.

A big-ticket item for the coveted teen/tween gamers

Source: Microsoft – Xbox Series X

Console gaming gets a passionate audience early, as teens and tweens (aged 10-17) are twice as likely as adults to play video games on a console. While teen and tween gamers have a lot of control over the individual games they purchase, big-ticket gaming items tend to come from parents, according to Mintel research on teen and tween gamers.

For this generation of teen/tween gamers, the PS5 and Xbox Series X are the most important hardware releases they’ve seen in their lifetimes. The purchase of these consoles (along with accompanying accessories and games) will be a priority for parents going into the holiday season, as parents look to not only satisfy their kids’ interests but also bring something into the household that all ages can play. Family brands that promote activities for the whole family can piggyback off of the hype of these consoles, as families find a new way to play together.

A test for brand differentiation in the next generation

While Nintendo stands on its own in the console market, Xbox and PlayStation tend to stand together in the eyes of consumers. The Xbox Series X and PS5 both enter the market promising greater gaming power and a more immersive gameplay experience. However, this console generation may push for more differentiation between the two powerhouses. Xbox will be positioning its console along with the new expanded Xbox Game Pass Ultimate which combines online gaming, cloud gaming and a subscription service to appeal to players who want to connect with each other and expand their gaming interests.

Meanwhile, PlayStation has put its exclusive games front and center as it looks to strengthen its position as a device for high-quality entertainment. These differentiating features will likely come to define Xbox and PlayStation in the coming years. During and beyond the holiday season, brands working to reach console players will likely need to align with one of these consoles as the lines between them become more distinct and console players strengthen their allegiances over the next few years.