A new wave of social-seeking gamers is driving industry growth to the next level

The gaming market just keeps getting bigger. It has surpassed movies and music—combined. It is popular in every corner of the globe, with all ages, and with all demographic groups. Gamers are spending more and more time engaged in play, and increasingly it’s a social and community activity. The limits on this growth remain uncharted.

This ongoing market expansion has huge implications for the many businesses operating within the gaming ecosystem, including developers, distributors, content creators, and game platforms. In this overview, we explore the industry’s rapidly growing revenue streams, the drivers of growth, the changing demographics of the gaming universe, and the increasing importance of gaming’s social interactions.

To get started, let’s consider a few numbers:

  • 2.7 billion: the estimated number of gamers worldwide in 2021.
  • 405 million: the number of subscribers on YouTube to the top-ten gaming influencers.
  • $300+ billion: Accenture’s estimate of the direct and indirect value of the gaming industry – much higher than previous industry estimates.
In simple terms, these figures all add up to one thing: opportunity for those businesses ready to make the commitment.

This is the first in a series of three articles exploring gaming’s explosive growth. We’ll look at factors driving the industry forward, challenges that rapid growth generates, and how gaming companies can navigate opportunities and challenges ahead.

The industry, already bigger than the combined markets for movies and music, has seen its growth surge. With people spending more time at home during the pandemic, momentum has accelerated more than ever.

Accenture estimates that the full value of the gaming industry already exceeds $300 billion. That's from the $200 billion in direct spend on consoles, software and subscriptions, in-game purchases and mobile ad revenues. With a further $100 billion of value from adjacent industries such as mobile devices, gaming PCs, peripherals, and gaming-related communities.

Gaming’s $100B+ influence.

Source: IDC and Accenture analysis.

Gaming’s economic reach and impact

The impact of gaming on entertainment and culture globally is also significant – spanning successful movie franchises, arena-based tournaments, toys and more. And innovations born in gaming are being widely used in other sectors too, from medical and defense to corporate training and education. In fact, one of the fastest growing parts of the Roblox platform is K-12 education.

The whole concept of gamification, now widely applied in many industries, uses game design mainstays like badges, points, and rankings to educate and engage users. Meanwhile, we’re seeing gaming platforms evolve into digital social platforms where players can meet, communicate, watch live-streamed events, listen to music, and make purchases.

What’s driving this massive growth?

Widespread adoption of smartphones globally is bringing in new players to the gaming world. And mobile will continue to enable new opportunities within gaming that simply didn’t exist even just a few years ago.

But rather than cannibalizing existing markets for console and PC gaming, the industry has adapted by increasingly emphasizing gaming’s social dimension. As this happens, we’re seeing new levels of engagement, with different groups turning to online competition.

During the pandemic, for example, we saw some the world’s leading race-car drivers competing online, and top chess players adopting Discord, a communications platform. Some industry leaders have recognized that gaming is no longer a product-centric industry. Instead, they’re becoming continuous service-oriented businesses that put customer experience first.

And that means in order to realize its full potential, the gaming industry must balance the needs of its newest adopters – and the 400 million new gamers expected within the next few years – with the expectations of historical gaming loyalists, many of whom are still the industry’s most lucrative customers.

Everywhere, all the time

So, who are today’s 2.7 billion gamers? To better understand their perceptions, needs, and motivations, Accenture collected data from 4,000 of them (people defined as playing video games for an average of four hours or more per week) across four of the largest markets for gaming: China, Japan, US, and UK. Combined, these markets represent 47% of all gamers globally and 64% of all direct consumer spend on gaming.

Gaming’s global revenue ($B) per percent of gamers.

Source: Accenture analysis.

At least 14 other markets, including South Korea, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, and Spain, generate more than $1 billion in consumer-related revenue. And gaming’s popularity is surging elsewhere, particularly in Latin America, Middle East, and many southeast Asian countries with a mobile-first profile.

A new face for gaming

Our research shows that the stereotype of young men making up the majority of gamers is wide of the mark. Mainly as a result of widespread mobile adoption, there are now nearly as many female gamers (46%) as there are male (52%), with 2% identifying as gender non-binary or opting not to answer.

Gaming’s gender and years of experience.

Twenty-one percent of gamers have only been playing for four years or fewer – these are the hundreds of millions of new gamers who are helping to drive the industry’s growth – especially in mobile. As they join the gaming community, they are also changing it. Their profiles are quite different – across demographic characteristics such as age, gender, and ethnicity – from those who’ve been playing for years.

Today’s new gamers are younger on average: 32 years old vs 35 for those playing for five or more years. While 30% of new gamers are under 25, only 21% of experienced gamers fall within that age range. We also see a greater representation of females in new gamers: they account for 60% of new gamers, as opposed to 39% of experienced gamers. And one-third of new games identify as non-white, compared with only 24% of those who’ve been gaming for longer.

30%

of new gamers are under 25.

Welcome to social gaming

People are gaming across consoles, mobile devices, and PCs. While the relative popularity of different gaming genres varies by device, first-person shooter, role-playing, multiplayer online battle arena and battle royale-style games are the most popular. More than half of gamers indicate they’ve played cross-platform games, with new gamers (60%) significantly more likely to have done so than experienced (50%).

But just as significant as what they’re playing and the devices they’re using, is who they’re playing with. The social side is a big and growing attraction. Eighty-four percent say video games help them connect with people who share their interests. And they’re gaming to meet new people, too. That’s become even more important during COVID-19, with three-quarters of gamers saying that more of their social interactions now take place on one gaming platform or another (look at Discord’s massive growth during the pandemic as a platform for both gaming and social interaction). Overall, it’s clear that video games have played a critical role in helping gamers to stay in touch with friends.

How gamers are connecting with friends.

Percentage who agree or strongly agree with these statements.

Gamers are spending an average 16 hours a week playing, eight hours a week watching or participating in game streams, and six hours a week interacting in game forums and communities. It’s not an escape from the real world. For many gamers, it’s obvious that this immersive world is just as real. The distinctions between playing a game and social interaction are blurring, if not completely disappearing.

As this symbiosis between the gaming and social worlds picks up pace, we’re seeing social interactions become one of the key drivers behind online gaming’s impressive growth. About three in four gamers (both new and experienced) indicate that they expect online gaming to become a larger part of their experience in the future.

Level of engagement vs. online gaming experience

From product to service: New value-add user experiences win out

With gaming’s explosive growth, expansion of use across demographics and increased customer desire for social interactions, gaming companies must increase their focus on the user experience. Gaming is no longer product-centric. It’s a service industry and, as cross-platform and social interactions become increasingly pervasive, what users see and do will make all the difference.

Gaming designed for social responsibility.

As online and social aspects of gaming increasingly define the whole experience, the industry must speed the move from a focus on franchise IP / content to see itself in the business of providing a continuous end-to-end service – with positive customer experiences and gamer happiness the overriding priority every step of the way.

Overall, the gaming industry looks set to continue on its unbeaten run to record a winning score. But with so many diverse new gamers joining all the time, there’s bound to be some challenges in creating an experience that everyone enjoys. And that’s what we’ll look at in the next article in this series.

1 https://www.amraandelma.com/100-top-youtube-gaming-influencers/

Christian Kelly

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Software & Platforms


Seth Schuler

Managing Director – Software & Platforms Strategy


Paul Johnson

Senior Principal – Accenture Research

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