Gamers gone mobile: Half of Americans play video games on mobile devices

August 21, 2015

Americans have adopted video gaming as a source of on-the-go entertainment, not just while at home in front of a gaming console. New research from Mintel reveals that mobile devices are the most popular platform for gaming, with half of Americans (47 percent) playing video games on mobile devices, compared to dedicated gaming consoles (36 percent). What is more, smartphones (39 percent) are the most often played mobile device compared to tablets (29 percent) and handheld gaming systems (11 percent). High usage of mobile devices for gaming is in line with Mintel research that shows the majority of Americans who play video games play on at least two different devices (76 percent).

Mobile gaming’s popularity is largely driven by free games, as nearly a third of consumers (31 percent) only play free video games. However, the industry remains profitable with adult gamers’ median monthly willingness to spend on video games at $52. An additional one fifth (19 percent) of adults are willing to spend more than $60 per month on video games.

Not all who game are “gamers”

Although “gamer” typically refers to consumers who play video games, not all who game self-identify with the label. While men age 18-34 (70 percent) are most likely to refer to themselves as a gamer, more than two in five US women age 18-34 (41 percent) and nearly one third of those age 35-54 (31 percent) also identify as gamers.

The majority of US adults play video games (67 percent), and an even larger majority of kids (92 percent) and teens (93 percent) also play, indicating the almost ubiquitous nature of gaming as a hobby. However, most consumers who play video games dedicate a limited amount of time to gaming. Over a quarter (28 percent) of consumers report playing less than one hour a week, followed by 24 percent who play between one and three hours.

“While video games are traditionally thought of as being played on gaming consoles, our research shows that consumers are bringing games with them when they are on-the-go in addition to playing at home. Kids and teens are most likely to play video games, but the overwhelming majority of adults are also accessing video games, as libraries of content are readily available right on their smartphones,” said Bryant Harland, Technology Analyst at Mintel.

When considering the type of video games that are most popular with American consumers, Mintel’s research shows that more than half (58 percent) of consumers who play video games say they prefer games that are challenging, including one fifth (20 percent) who prefer strategy games, 52 percent who prefer puzzle games and 32 percent who like to play digital word games. However, there is a risk of players quitting a game entirely if it is too challenging, as 24 percent of players agree that they will stop playing a game if it frustrates them.

Families game together despite concerns for graphic content

55% of parents agree they are concerned with graphic content in video games, but 58% agree they like the social aspects of gaming

Mintel’s research also indicates a connection between video gaming and family time. The tendency to enjoy the social elements of gaming trends upward with household size, with three in five (62 percent) Americans in a household of five or more people enjoying the social elements of gaming, compared to 51 percent of overall consumers. Despite 55 percent of parents agreeing that they are concerned about the presence of graphic content in many video games, they are more likely to agree that they enjoy the social aspects of gaming (58 percent).  Furthermore, 28 percent of Americans agree that video gaming is good for connecting with family and friends, including 32 percent of parents with children at home.

Nearly half of consumers who play video games agree that they are concerned with graphic content in games (47 percent). While women were especially likely to have this concern (52 percent), 40 percent of men age 18-34 and 45 percent of men age 35-54 also express concern.

“Video games hold a unique position in regard to violent media due to their interactivity, and it is likely that as graphics become increasingly detailed and realistic, this type of concern will grow. Additionally, interfaces, such as virtual reality, that deeply enhance immersion and interactivity will heighten the experiences players have, whether they are positive or negative. As a result, brands may be expected to provide alternative game modes that lessen the graphic content of their games. It may also be beneficial to provide more context for the graphic scenarios that occur in games,” Harland continued.

Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of American kids and 33 percent of teens agree that they spend more time playing video games than watching television. Virtually all teen boys report playing video games (97 percent), and 93 percent of teens overall report playing, with 35 percent citing video games as their main source of entertainment.

“The video game market is poised for growth, especially as kids and teens, the most avid gaming population, age into adulthood. Brands that accept the challenge of meeting the diverse needs of consumers, such as concerns around price points and graphic content, will be in a good position to advance engagement among US consumers,” concluded Harland.

Press review copies of the Attitudes toward Gaming US 2015 report and interviews with Bryant Harland, Technology Analyst, are available on request from the press office.

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