- Game viewership and game video content (GVC) usage increased in 2020.
- However, we expect some of this growth to slow in 2021.
With physical sporting events suspended and traditional stores closed, digital entertainment alternatives from Fortnite to Animal Crossing have given consumers the opportunity to hone electronic communication skills and expand virtual cities and islands.
It’s no surprise that viewership of gaming and gaming video content (GVC) usage increased in 2020 as consumers spent more time at home and the video game industry provided a way to stay entertained and connected with friends.
But will this trend continue in 2021? Insider Information predicts that some of the gaming market growth will slow next year.
Demographics and US gaming hardware trends
Gamers are turning to their Nintendo, Playstation, and Xbox consoles as time at home increases in 2020 – Monthly digital console gamers saw a bigger increase than all other gaming consoles, up 6.3% from 2019.
Despite the growing popularity of game consoles in 2020, the return to personal work, school, and other events will witness this plateau. Additionally, players’ gameplay has evolved significantly beyond the traditional “hardcore” combo of players who dedicate more than 20 hours a week to their digital console.
Cell phones are still the most popular gaming device; This year, there will be more than 150 million players per month on mobile devices in the United States, which is more than 89% of all digital gamers. The convenience of mobile devices gives all other gaming technologies an advantage because gamers can play anywhere, anytime on their devices – a quality that laptops and game consoles lack.
Other gaming platforms that act as a happy medium between convenient portable gaming technology and more advanced console systems are laptops and PCs. In 2021, there will be over 98 million desktop/laptop players per month in the United States. While this is a slight decrease from 2020, it still represents more than half of all digital players.
It’s important to note, however, that Insider Intelligence expects desktop/laptop gamers to decline once the pandemic subsides, as casual gamers are more likely to choose to play on mobile devices and more serious gamers will continue to spend time on console hardware.
American gaming trends and statistics
The narrative that gamers are tech-savvy youth has shifted to a wider audience. As mentioned earlier, mobile gaming has grown in popularity in 2020 – and since mobile and cloud gaming platforms have social components built in and offer a variety of gaming options, they are attracting a more diverse audience.
For example, in the first six weeks after its March release, more than 13 million copies of Animal Crossing: New Horizons were sold by the Nintendo Switch in Japan, Europe, and the United States.
However, consumers who play first-person fighting games on devices like Xbox or PC are still young and male. YouGov conducted a survey in 2020 to identify “hardcore” gamers – those who dedicate more than 20 hours a week to controlling games. 77% of participants over the age of 18 identified themselves as male, compared to 23% of female, and 65% of hardcore gamers between the ages of 18 and 45.
Overall, there will be 177.7 million gamers per month in the US this year – which means that by the end of 2021, more than half of the US population will be identified as a digital gamer. And as the number of players increases, so does the audience.
Video Game Content (GVC): Game Streaming Viewing Trends
The hunger for social interaction in 2020 has increased the demand for gaming broadcasts, where consumers can interact with gaming influencers and other global value chain viewers.
GVC will attract more than 4 million viewers per month through 2023 – with the streaming service Twitch as its biggest competitor. Twitch was the dominant global platform for GVC content in Q4 2020 with 65.8% of total hours compared to 23.3% for YouTube games and 10.9% for Facebook games.
Esports Watching Trends
Esports is a subset of GVC content and is defined by Insider Intelligence as organized gaming competitions between professional players and teams. While in-person sporting events have been postponed for several months due to the pandemic, esports has continued with online tournaments – allowing it to gain media coverage and viewing.
Overall, there will be more than 26 million monthly viewers of esports in the US in 2021, which is more than 47% of all GVC viewers.
Video Game Industry Outlook for 2021
The gaming market revenue is well positioned due to the huge increase in the monthly number of digital gamers – last year consumers spent $44 billion on gaming software and services. However, this growth will not last long, as the number of digital players per month is expected to grow by only 1.1% in 2021.
With more than half of the US population already playing games on a monthly basis, there is limited room for further growth, and many of the audience that gaming has captured during the pandemic may lose interest once social distancing restrictions are lifted.
One element of games that will continue to be important in 2021 is their ability to provide social interaction in a virtual way. The ability to connect with others during the pandemic has increased the social aspects of gaming across all devices, especially mobile devices.
While interest in connecting with people through video games may wane as the pandemic subsides, Insider Intelligence believes that the social component of gaming will continue to attract larger audiences to the ecosystem into 2021 and beyond.
Do you want to know more?
The pandemic has accelerated the growth of the gaming industry, making the future of gaming complex and important. That’s why Insider Intelligence put together The US Gaming Ecosystem 2021. The report details expectations for digital gamers across console, desktop/laptop, tablet, and mobile, as well as viewership of esports and other global value chains.
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