If the gaming industry’s core is a game, the gamers are its main driver. But today, the notion “gamer” can relate to roughly ⅓ of the world’s population as reportedly 2,2 billion people play games. As a result, it’s hard to pick an “average” gamer and link his/her gaming and purchasing patterns to the growth of the sector unless we classify gamers somehow — so here we go!
The evolution of gamers: combating the young-nerdy-male-gamer stereotype
At the dawn of computer games, gaming was predominantly perceived as entertainment for kids but it’s no longer the case — perhaps only in our moms’ heads. While the loudest console & PC titles with their macho men characters and big weapons still seem to be crafted primarily for adolescent boys, they don’t represent the essence of the variety of games existing at the market. In the wake of the game evolution, the concept of a stereotypical young nerdy male gamer has never been further from the truth.
Today, adult women represent a greater portion of the gaming community (33%) than boys under 18 (17%), while the average age of a gamer is 34. But the young generation of gamers is growing fast: the kids that played games yesterday are the parents of today — and these parents are much more gaming-friendly. In fact, 67% of them not only encourage their children to play, but play together with them at least once a week, thus prompting a new generation of gamers.
From casual to professional gamers: who rules the industry?
When structuring this wide range of gamers, the main two factors to consider are the time they spend playing and the aim they pursue in gaming.
1) Gaming patterns:
The main motivation for such gamers to play is the ability to decompress from their daily activities through the engaging ingame world whenever they have a free minute. They’re not as devoted as other gamer types and don’t keep track of what’s happening in the industry. They also lack that nerdy twist that keeps other gamers playing until they’ve completed all the quests and beaten all their competitors. As a result, casual gamers can play any game genre at any gaming platform as long as it doesn’t require too much investment into hardware and can be played in a relaxed mode and short time periods. An average gaming session for such gamers is 1,20h leading to no more than 6 hours of overall gaming per week.
The distinctive feature of this class is that it covers all sections of the demographics — from 8 year-olds to old-age pensioners — and, in violation of all gaming myths, includes more women than men.
- Kids under 18:
While there’s a common stereotype about gaming-obsessed kids, most of them are casual gamers and play all sorts of games moderately. They also do not spend much on this hobby — it’s their parents who do. Interestingly, they play for a wide array of reasons from hanging out with friends to learning new skills and do that in completely different settings. For instance, 74% of teachers in primary and secondary schools in the U.S. use digital games for educational purposes. 67% of parents play video games with their children at least once a week. With schools and parents utilizing games as a means of education and social bonding, this newest generation of gamers will be more accepting of games of all kinds.
- 18–36 year-olds:
These are the most active players and they play all sorts of games — from casual mobile apps and PC games like Sims to fitness games and online casinos. By the way, the latter have led to a huge change in gaming demographics, involving many older players and a lot more females.
- Gamers above 36:
Casual players include a big chunk of people above 36, many of whom grew up at the times of the Nintendo Entertainment System and continued to play ever since. But while they’re still into gaming, they tend to decrease the time spent on games due to increased responsibilities and other hobbies. Also, while younger gamers prefer competition, these gamers’ interest in it tapers off at around 40. That’s why the majority of the older gamers play casual single-player games like Candy Crush or Angry birds, which can be played in short sessions while still being fun enough to play for long periods of time. Yet, some play more complex games like MMORPGs, too, as these allow for many different non-stressful gaming styles.
3) Purchasing patterns:
A big chunk of these gamers play mobile games only — no surprise, 95% of all gamers play those — and such games are often Free-to-Play. Moreover, many casual gamers play social games which don’t even require downloading — Facebook was an early mover with Instant Games, which opened to third-party developers in March 2018, and Google was quick to follow. The practice is already commonplace among social networks in Asian countries, where Tencent in China, Kakao in South Korea, and LINE in Japan all offer instant, integrated game experiences directly in their apps. This urges game producers to revamp their monetization schemes and sick profits from advertisers. And so far it works just great: over the past three years, there’s been a 50 percent increase in brand ad spend on mobile games. Yet, some casual gamers, especially the older ones, do spend an average of $16 a month on gaming — mostly on ingame downloadable content and software.
Summing up, while this group outnumbers all others, most casual gamers spend 3 times less on gaming than hardcore gamers and fall short on purchases of hardware and other game related stuff. Their spending patterns are simply not as diversified as those of more devoted gamers. So even though it’s hard to estimate the amount of revenue they bring to the market, many reports claim it’s lower than that generated by hardcore & professional gamers.
1) Gaming patterns:
For most casual gamers, the virtual world, its environment, and the story are everything. For hardcore gamers — that’s not enough. What they are looking for is stretching competition and complex quests — at the very least. According to the classification proposed by Ernest Adams and Scott Kim, hardcore gamers are distinguished from the rest by their technologically savviness, powerful gaming hardware, preference for violent/action games with deep & complex ingame realities and a tendency to play over many long sessions. No surprise that 56% of hardcore gamers play MMOs — a genre perfectly fitting all their needs — at least once a week with an average of 7 hours per session. Overall, these gamers spend an average of 16 hours per week playing PC — in 2017, there were 300 mln hardcore PC gamers — and console. But as more mobile games become sophisticated enough to cater for the like of this gamer type — like Fortnite — hardcore gamers start migrating to this gaming platform, to: mobile is the king.
The distinctive feature of hardcore gamers is that they not only play, but also devote themselves to other gaming-related activities. They often track the industry’s news and software & hardware release dates, acting as the early adopters of all the new stuff. In fact, they’re so much into gaming that 1/3 of them claim they’d quit their jobs to become professional gamers if they could make a living with that.
This is where the stereotypical image of gamers derives from. Most hardcore gamers are indeed males aged 18–36 and their obsession with gaming serves as a backbone of the gaming economy.
3) Purchasing patterns:
These gamers spend an average of $54 a month on video games — and 46% percent of them often buy video games the week they are released. Interestingly, considering that 0,15% of mobile gamers yield 50% of mobile gaming revenues, these 0,15% can also be referred to as hardcore gamers, even if they play casual games like Candy Crush and don’t devote so much time to learning about the gaming industry.
But hardcore gamers gaming expenditure goes beyond simple purchases of software and ingame downloadable content (DLC). Given the complexity of the games most of them play, they also need to spend quite a bit for hardware. Moreover, a big chunk of these gamers spend a lot of money on other activities related to gaming, like eSports tournaments & streamings, eSports betting, ingame boostings etc. They are the ones to watch gaming streamings on platforms like Twitch. 48% of those aged 18–25 watch at least 1–3 hours of streaming per week, while only 37% of the same group watch traditional sports events at the same frequency. Overall these guys bring Twitch sky-rocketing profits that even lured Amazon to buy it for $1 bln.
As a result, given the wide spectrum of spending patterns of this class of gamers, they still outperform the casual type, no matter how fast the latter draws in new sorts of gamers from all over the world.
1) Gaming patterns:
These are a special sub-group of hardcore gamers, who take gaming even more seriously — as seriously as Olympic athletes. No wonder that the main aim of these guys is to master their games of choice to the point where it’s no longer fun but pure methodical science. Only that way can they play in major eSports teams and participate in online & offline events, making a living of their prize money, team salaries, advertising campaigns, and sponsorship fees
Professional gaming has exploded in the last decade and such gamers soon became the new stars of a 2,2 bln gaming community, making millions by 30 and exploding both gaming and conventional press. Take a German player Kuro Salehi Takhasomi, who won $2,436,667 playing “Dota 2” — not bad, uh? For most, however, the winnings are far more modest.
2) Demographics & purchasing patterns:
While these gamers obviously spend more than anyone else on gaming software and hardware, their demand is not crucial to the overall amount of sales. After all, these are a relatively small bunch of males under 30, mainly from Asia and the U.S. But what’s key about them is that they spur the whole industry’s growth not only by spinning the emerging eSports sector, which has already reached a $1 bln valuation, but also reinventing gaming and attracting the whole world’s attention to it.
The eSports phenomenon is so peculiar that our next article will be devoted to it, stay tuned for more info.
Gamers are a very dynamic group that keeps evolving, thus tangling existing classifications and producing new ones. Due to this, it’s hard to figure out exactly which type of gamers drives the market. But one thing we can say for sure: while the casual gamers are the most diverse and fastest-growing group, they don’t yet yield as much profits to the industry as the hardcore gamers. The main reason for this is that the latter are willing to spend more money not only directly on gaming — hardware, software, and downloadable content — but also on all sorts of game-related stuff like streamings, eSports offline events etc. We at FiPME are curious to see how it all develops!