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As Video Gaming Evolves, Who's Playing?

Digital passed physical to grab majority of video game sales last year

April 29, 2015 | Media & Entertainment

Video gaming is a US household staple, based on February 2015 polling by Ipsos MediaCT for the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). The study found that four out of five US households owned a device used for video gaming, and there was an average of two gamers in each game-playing household. In all, 155 million people played video games.

Demographic Profile of US Video Gamers, Feb 2015 (% of total)

Broken down by age, 18- to 35-year-olds represented the largest share of video gamers, at 30%. Somewhat surprisingly, those ages 50 and older ranked a close second, beating out the 18-and-under group by 1 point. The 36-to-49 group came in last, trailing the youngest age range by 9 percentage points. In all, the average game player was 35 years old.

In gender terms, males led females 56% to 44%. There were also age differences among the biggest gamers in each group. However, adult women grabbed a share more than twice that of boys ages 18 or younger, at 33% vs. 15%. Frequent male game players were 35 years old on average, while frequent female gamers were most likely to be 43 years old.

Devices Used to Play Video Games Among US Frequent Gamers, Feb 2015 (% of respondents)

The days when video gaming was restricted to consoles are long gone, thanks to the multitude of devices that allow for playing. ESA found that PCs were the most popular game-playing devices, used in 62% of gamer households. Dedicated game consoles still landed in second, at 56%. Smartphones grabbed a smaller share, though still impressive, at 35%.

Notably, for the first time last year, digital took control of the video game market. Citing data from The NPD Group, ESA reported that digital game sales (including digital add-on content, digital full games, mobile apps, social networking gaming and subscriptions) accounted for 52% of US video game sales in 2014, up from 47% in 2013. Physical formats grabbed the remaining 48%.

Smartphones may have been used less than PCs and consoles among gaming households in the ESA study, but among the population as a whole, mobile is far more popular. eMarketer estimates that this year, 41.8% of US consumers will play games on smartphones at least once per month. Online casual gamers—internet users of any age who play games via web browser at least monthly on a desktop or laptop computer—will have slightly lower penetration, at 32.9% of the population. Smartphones will widen the gap through 2019, when respective penetration rates will come in at 55.7% and 36.0%. Meanwhile, online console gamers will represent a far smaller share of the population, at 15.3% this year and 17.0% in 2019.

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