In one way or another, it is quite likely that you have played video games recently, and probably have done so online. While perhaps marketed initially as a diversion or toy for children, many games and the gaming industry itself grew up with their audience. Now gaming provides consumers massive online communities, cinematic experiences that can last for literal days, a wide array of platforms to choose from, peripherals far beyond a simple joystick and a few buttons, and programs to reach people of all backgrounds. And much of the experience is online and requires internet access to enjoy, for better or for worse.
Yet what does gaming mean to people, and how is gaming culture and time spent on gaming connected to the internet as a whole? As it turns out, there is a whole lot to investigate. Here are our main findings:
How Many Gamers Are There?
You might have an idea of a "gamer" in your head. Yet, can you have an accurate idea of 3.07 billion people worldwide by 2023? Because that is how many people are projected to play games, and that statistic can give you a clue as to how much gaming has caught onto the mainstream. Now many of those people are effectively "mobile-only" gamers, and we'll be getting into that a bit more later. However, gaming culture is bleeding into mainstream culture in a big way, and now more than ever, people are spending their free time gaming online.
While we don't want to diverge into a discussion involving in-depth demographic breakdowns in this article, just know that this is a worldwide trend.
Internet Speed and Online Gaming
Given the importance we place on internet speed and its effects on people's happiness and quality of life, we wanted to specifically look into how internet speeds related to gaming, how people felt about the topic, and what was necessary for people. While there are purely single-player games that still exist, in truth, most games require regular patches, common updates (especially online multiplayer games), or even a consistent internet connection to just play the game.
And gamers are often frustrated by slow connection speeds, claiming slow download speeds prevent them from accessing the games they want. Slow connection speeds interfere with their play or even commonly disconnect them from games. In fact, based on the graphic below, it is the most frustrating part about downloading games, and even more frustrating than when the process interrupts itself.
Something to keep in mind is that, according to the Entertainment Software association, even in 2017, 74 percent of all video game and computer sales were sold in digital format form. When something is sold in a digital format, that necessitates a download, and a huge one at that with some of the most popular games. In some cases, games when combined with downloads and extra content can result in 50GB-100GB to download (and much more in the largest cases), which means hours, if not days, of download times for even good internet connections.
These facts point to one thing: game producers and publishers expect people to have good internet connections.
Time Spent Gaming
The amount of time someone spends gaming can show a lot about their hobbies and how important they consider a consistent internet connection. An online gamer expects to have an uninterrupted connection, so they do not get dropped from the session or find that their download was ruined and have to start from the beginning.
The above chart can give you a breakdown of the numbers, and as you can see, there's a decent part of the gaming population that could almost treat it like a part-time (or full-time) job. It's noteworthy that the time spent each week is a little less than it was in previous years, and keep in mind that more people are gaming to bring down the average.
Money Spent on Online Gaming
While there is a lot more that could be said about the online gaming industry and multiple ways to break it down, the critical point we want to bring up here is that online gaming is a huge business. There is a lot of money going into it, and a lot of money consumers are investing in their hobby, which is all the more reason for them to want a good internet connection for it. Here are a few stats you should be aware of:
- About 85 percent of gaming revenue comes from free-to-play games, according to Clairfield International. Clearly, companies have found an online gaming model that works, and players are willing to spend. While some will claim that some of the tactics used in games are borderline or outright predatory to consumers, in most countries, little has been done so far, and industry practices are unlikely to change.
- Fortnite, one of the largest online games, brought in $1.1 billion in 2020.
- Much like regular sports, it's expected that esports will bring in their own gambling industries as well. Betting continues into 2022, with more people becoming aware of the trend.
While we won't focus too much on industry specifics, please note that the industry has many more statistics to offer and that gaming is bigger than practically every other form of entertainment combined.
Most Popular Online Games
Yet while we have discussed online gaming as a concept, gaming ultimately involves specific games and play experiences, and just like any other form of entertainment, there are trends. There are multiple ways to consider this, but we decided upon peak concurrent players as our main metric.
It is impossible to draw data for every game, and there may be additional concurrent players from other consoles or methods of play that shift the numbers. Ultimately our goal here isn't to provide you with the precise numbers (which are hard to measure) but instead merely to show you which games to watch and just the sheer size of the numbers we're talking about.
Mobile Game Statistics
If you're a console or PC gamer, you may not notice it as much, but where gaming is picking up the most traction is on the smartphones nearly everyone has. It's an easy user base to access, and as smartphones reach the level of technological development to play more advanced games, more people are interested in finding something to pick up and play without carrying around a handheld console.
Here are some things you should know about this growing market:
- Out of each dollar spent on the app store, 74 cents of it was spent on a mobile game of some sort. People are not necessarily willing to spend as much money on apps as they are games. Companies that host these app stores are also taking notice, not only in making sure they support games as well as possible but in releases such as the Apple arcade, hoping to get a share of that market.
- In a bit of a different approach to the future of mobile gaming, Microsoft is attempting to move forward with projects in game streaming, combining that technology with the use of a controller connected to the smartphone. Not all ventures of a similar magnitude have succeeded in the past (Google Stadia is still struggling after launch), but it will likely push the industry forward.
- According to a source on Statista, mobile game revenues worldwide are regularly increasing. They will increase further, even if the rate of revenue growth isn't projected to stay constant as we reach into the new decade.
As for where that revenue comes from, the Chinese market is enormous (beyond that which even we would expect from the general size of the gaming market there). Following that, the United States, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom are the biggest spenders. This generally does not come as a surprise, although we should expect game developers and publishers to continue to focus on these markets.
- User penetration data is similar, although more potential users in the United States have used a mobile game. Some might say that the market is somewhat overgrown in the States, making it more difficult for newcomers to find a place without bringing something revolutionary to the table or a more effective way to monetize.
- Surprisingly, the Mexican market is also strong in this regard, despite revenues from the country not being as large as one might expect.
- What apps and games are the most popular in the mobile space? In some ways, this is a difficult thing to determine while accurately representing the market. If you were to look at the top-grossing games on the iPhone as of February 2020 and compare the charts to the same measurements from last year, you'd find completely different rankings.
- You will also find that this list will change almost entirely next year, and so on. It's more important to consider overall advancements and popular gameplay mechanics than the games themselves.
- Similarly, the charts would not be alike if you compared the iPhone and Android markets, which is curious as major releases generally are on both platforms. It may be multiplayer pressure to play with your friends, other trends, or differences in advertising or marketing on the two platforms.
Ultimately, there is still much more that can be said about the mobile market, but we want your takeaway to be that mobile is king and will continue to be for the foreseeable future in terms of the casual game space. Yet as phones become more capable and able to play games more popular on consoles (Fortnite, for example, has a very popular mobile release), we will likely see the lines blur between the two, as companies try to make the most of profitable IPs.
The Gaming Ecosystem
People don't just play video games and put them down. Much like any hobby (or in some cases lifestyle), there are entire publications, online and off, dedicated to gaming. People will often watch others play games on streaming sites such as Twitch or via prerecorded content on YouTube when (and sometimes while) they aren't enjoying games themselves. People love to discuss games and make them a part of their lifestyle, and here are some more stats on this topic, divided into those about Twitch and those about YouTube:
- The average number of people watching Twitch (by far the most popular gaming streaming site) has been steadily increasing over the last few years. While there are spikes due to esports events and major game releases, there is a consistent trend to follow. And while in the past year or so there have been forays into the space by Microsoft (Mixer) and YouTube, Amazon's acquisition remains dominant.
- There were 7.57 million unique Twitch broadcasters in December of 2021. Streaming and sharing with others is a hobby for millions and a profession for several thousand people. More people are getting into streaming as it becomes more accessible and technologically easier for people to do so.
- According to Twitch Tracker, 1.37 billion hours were spent watching Twitch in December of 2021. It should be noted that people will often have a stream on in the background while doing something else, but that is nonetheless an almost unfathomable number.
- Twitch is also a big moneymaker in the gaming and entertainment space. According to the Copia Institute, Twitch takes in 31 percent of all gaming-content-related revenue.
- According to Alexa, Twitch is the 50th most popular website online (as of this writing), which is incredibly impressive considering it is up against sites such as search engines and social media giants that people don't even really consider websites anymore.
- According to Limelight, watching people play video games online is more popular than watching sports. And with many sports leagues currently not operating, esports (affected by COVID, but not as affected) have only had time to claim a greater audience.
YouTube, being another online hub of gaming, is another worthwhile place to investigate. In just the third quarter of 2021, people viewed over 8.4 million hours of YouTube Gaming content.
- The most popular channel, PewDiePie, has 111 million subscribers as of this writing. There are multitudes of other gaming channels, many of which have hundreds of thousands to millions of subscribers.
- If you're not interested in gaming content, you might be tempted to think, "why do people watch others play video games on the internet?" Information provided by Google and Ipsos Connect found several reasons for the trend:
- About 74 percent want to learn how to get better at a game. This can be especially true with competitive multiplayer games or particularly difficult games that have built up a reputation.
- Of responders, 73 percent stated they watch others for enjoyment. They may enjoy the streamer or content producer's personality or find that the content adds something to the original gameplay.
- Many will watch to feel accepted, given that gaming is such a wide space. Many subcommunities can cater to needs people can't meet elsewhere.
- Gaming can be a major part of one's lifestyle, and 56 percent of YouTube gamers stated that they want to feel connected to that community and that watching helps them do that.
- Of course, there are other reasons you might watch gaming content, and more will likely develop as creators try using more techniques and technologies, and companies consider more events.
Yet, despite the rise of these platforms or websites, we would like to note that there has always been a fan base for gaming content. Gaming magazines and related content are on the decline, and video content has been taking their place, which was true even a decade ago. No matter what metric you look at, gaming content is becoming more popular, which we hope is the main takeaway for you.
Video games can be different things to different people. The total industry has split into several directions, some new and exciting, some growing beyond original predictions, and others traditional yet developing in ways that push the boundaries of what we think we can achieve. Whatever you find yourself interested in and find yourself looking for from your gaming experience, we hope you find exactly that.