Gamer Demographics: How the US Play Games

Who is playing video games these days? According to a recent study by the Electronic Software Association (ESA), it’s not who you think.

When you think of Gamers, the first image that probably pops into your head is a scrawny to slightly chubby teen sitting in a dark room. The only light that emanates is from the screen, either from a flat panel LCD with surround sound and the latest FPS flashing on the screen or the glare from a customized three screened supercomputer with the latest MMO running at full settings with a pile of discarded soda bottles and energy bars surrounding the chair. Well my friends you would be wrong.


Who is Playing?


According to this study, the average US household owns at least one dedicated game console, PC or smartphone, with 49% of households that do own a dedicated console, only owning two.  I don’t know whose house they were looking in, but I can tell you that in my house we have five consoles, two PC’s and three smartphones. The average age for a Gamer is 30 years old. Statistics showing that 32% are under 18, 31 % are 18 to 35 and 37% are 36 and older. I can vouch for that, being on the cusp of my 34th birthday.

I know what you're thinking though, “Wow that’s a lot of guys playing video games.” Again you would be wrong, 57% of Gamers are male and 43% female, while women 18 and older represent a significantly higher population (30%) than males 17 and under (18%).  Who, you ask is buying all these games. The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 35, with 52% being male and 48% being female. Again I can relate to this, when my wife went to the midnight release and bought me the First Edition Bundle PS Vita, she remarked how there was a lot of older men waiting, she had expected to see more younger people. 42% of Game players believe they get the most value for their money with their purchase of computer and video games, compared with DVDs, music or going out to the movies. This does hold some truth for some people. I, for one, will replay a game many times over, especially if I really like it,  Final Fantasy VII anyone. Whereas a DVD that just came out will probably be watched once or twice within six month period and with today's theater prices, who has the money to go to the movies on a regular basis. Speaking of buying, 46% of Gamers have purchased or plan to purchase one or more games in 2012, have you seen the games that are coming out, I can’t throw my money at them fast enough. Top reasons Gamers say they purchase computer or video games: quality of game graphics, an interesting story line, a sequel to a favorite game and word of mouth. 


How We Play

How long would you say that you have been playing video games? I know that I have been an avid gamer since the late eighties to the early nineties, so around 17 years. From this study, 12 is the average number of years that gamers have been playing. Adult gamers have been playing for an average of 14 years, with males averaging 16 years and females at 12 years. All I can say is that the gaming has gotten a heck of a lot better over the years, although some of those older games still have great playability. 15% of frequent game players pay to play online games, with games like Call of Duty and Battlefield, that’s the best way to play. 62% of gamers play online games with others, either online or in person, 78% spend at least one hour a week playing with others and 33% playing social games.

The majority of online games being played at 42% consist of puzzle, board game, game show trivia and card games; strategy, sports, action and role playing making up 25%; 13% being downloadable games; persistent multiplayer universe at 11% and 9% being other. Gamers who are playing more video games than they did three years ago are spending less time on other activities with 59% playing board games, 50% going to movies, 47% watching TV and 47% watching movies at home. Although, those who do own a dedicated gaming console are using it for more than just gaming.  In addition to gaming, 40% are watching movies on their console. My PS3 has become the permanent DVD player.

20% use their console for music, with the amount of storage nowadays and services like iHeartRadio and Pandora, you almost don’t need a radio or receiver anymore; and 17% use their console to watch TV shows, in this digital age you only need to wait an hour or so before you can watch new episodes of your favorite shows on Hulu or any of the other popular services. Even gaming on the go has had an increase in recent years, with 33% of gamers playing on their smartphones and 25% on handheld devices.


Parents and Games 


Back when I was growing up, most parents didn’t play video games with their kids. Parents these day are more involved with the type of games that their kids are playing. 98% of parents feel that the ESRB rating system is somewhat or very helpful in choosing games for their kids, while 85% are aware of the ESRB rating system.

Do parents control what their kids play? 73% of parents believe that the Parental Controls in newer consoles are useful, they are also imposing time limits on play time more than any other form of entertainment; 84% limit time on game play, 79% limit internet usage, 78% limit TV viewing and 72% limit movie viewing. Some other stats are: 90% of parents are present when games are bought or rented and 82% of the time permission is given before a game is rented or bought. 91% of parents pay attention to the content of the game being played. Being a seasoned gamer, I can tell by the type of game, whether or not I will let my kids play it, granted I monitor what they play and how long they play as well. I’m not one of those parents that just goes out and buys the game “just cause all the other kids have it”, If I think that my kids shouldn’t play a certain game, I don't buy it. 

Not all parents see video games as mind rotting wastes of money, 52% say that games are a positive part of their child's life. Some parents see the positive impact that playing video games has on a child. 66% believe that game play provides mental stimulation or education, while 61% believe game play helps the family spend time together and 59% believe playing games help with making friends.

I can tell you that if you put four people in a room and  the subject of games comes up, at least one of those people will have no clue what the others are talking about. Gaming has become a huge culture, allowing parents to connect with their kids and gamers across spans of generations to have something in common to talk about. 


Top Sellers

What games are being bought and sold and which genre is the most popular? Well according to this study in Video Games: Action is in the lead with 19%, followed by Shooters at 18%, and Sports at 14.8%, with Family Entertainment being 11% for the top four. In Computer Games: Strategy comes first at 27.6%, Role-Playing at 21.1%, Casual taking third at 20.6%, and Shooters coming in last at 13% for the top four. 

So what does it come down to and how much did consumers spend in 2011 for computer and video games? In hardware $5.59 (not dollars and cents) billions of dollars. In accessories, $2.62 billion. Last but not the least, content was a whopping $16.54 billion with a grand total of $24.75 billion dollars spent on the gaming industry, and they say that the gaming industry is dying, sheesh.

This is just a portion of the data that was put out in the report should you feel the need to read it yourself and look at all the pretty numbers you can find it here.

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