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Gamers often run counter to stereotypes: Here’s what you need to know about them

“That was close… watch out!” That was my husband, his eyes fixated on his 32-inch UHD monitor as he coordinated with his squad mates over the microphone-equipped headset to escape death in the massively popular online game Fortnite. The excitement over live actions was palpable, contagious even for me who never really got into multi-player online games or computer games for that matter. My first-hand gaming experience is largely limited to playing Luminosity on my iPhone, for now.

One way or another, electronic gaming has become an important part of the leisure time for many of us. According to the latest data from GfK Consumer Life, about three in ten online Americans age 15+ now play electronic or video games daily or on most days, up from less than a quarter in 2009. Another 22% do so weekly, and one-tenth play monthly. Younger men remain the most engaged with gaming – nearly six in ten daily gamers are men and the majority (55%) are Millennials or Post-Millennial teens; but women and older Americans have also come to claim a notable share of the pie.

Contributing to the growing popularity of gaming is a more flexible, engaging, and multi-dimensional experience. Take Fortnite. You have the option to play on gaming consoles, computers, and starting in March this year, iOS mobile devices. You can not only play the game but watch the gameplay live while interacting with the broadcasting player in real-time. In fact, on March 25th, a global Fortnite match orchestrated by popular Spanish YouTuber elrubiusOMG drew in a record of 1.1 million concurrent viewers, shattering the previous record set less than two weeks before on game streaming site Twitch by pro-gamer Ninja and hip-hop icon Drake. The three-and-a-half hour tournament racked up an astonishing total of 42 million views for the entire duration. And it does not stop there. The first Fortnite eSports tournament took place this April in Las Vegas, where hundreds of fans, semi-pros and pro-gamers from all over the country played against Ninja and each other. The riveting event has been hailed as adding a welcome new dimension to the rapidly growing eSports market by allowing casual gamers to not only observe but play alongside pro-gamers.

Gamers represent an enticing target group for marketers for reasons beyond their sheer size and the rise of eSports or streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming. GfK Consumer Life findings reveal a few key facts about gamers that marketers need to know.

  • Willing to spend: PC gamers, often swearing by the platform for its superiority in graphics, processing power and selection of games, have been fueling the upsurge of gaming PCs even as the overall PC market faced challenges in recent years, motivating computer manufacturers from HP to Dell to boost up their gamer-focused offerings.Gamers’ openness to spend, however, goes well beyond gaming devices or even electronics overall, which these tech enthusiasts are naturally drawn to. With a high level of consumer confidence and often in the acquisition stage of life, gamers – particularly daily and weekly gamers – are substantially more inclined than the rest to plan for large purchases including vehicles, homes and home appliances.
  • Social and influential: That image you may picture when thinking of a hardcore gamer – an isolated “geek” with no social life spending most of his time playing games alone – is far from the reality. Gamers today are among the most social – for example, daily gamers are highly engaged with social media. And many feel that belonging to the groups that share their interest is essential to their wellbeing. After all, with the rise of online multiplayer and social network games, gaming today is often an intensely social experience and gamers are more likely a virtually connected bunch. But gamers’ social experience is by no means limited to teaming up with their gaming buddies to battle for glory in the virtual world. On average, daily gamers spend over an hour more than the rest per week hanging out with friends around town.

With a broader network and a willingness to connect, gamers are influential. Daily and weekly gamers show a high tendency to make product recommendations to various types of people – from those who share their hobbies and interest to perfect strangers they simply run into at stores. And the majority have posted online reviews in the past month.

  • Beyond function: Gamification is a way of life for devoted gamers. Out of a list of 57 personal values that GfK Consumer Life measures, Having Fun and Excitement are the most differentiating for those who play electronic games at least weekly. And this focus on fun is reflected in their product expectations. Compared to the average American consumer, daily and weekly gamers are more likely to seek out fun and novelty in everyday products and admit that the look, feel and smell of a product is very important to them.
  • Beyond fun: Fun-seeking they may be, the typical gamer today is NOT a laid-back free-spirit only concerned about having a good time. Often Millennials and Post-Millennials trying to establish themselves at work and in life in general, daily and weekly gamers demonstrate a high propensity to fall into the Achievers values segment, a group that prioritizes on getting ahead and obtaining social status. Part of that status comes from being ‘in the know.’ Gamers, especially daily gamers, often want to be seen as knowledgeable and smart. This points to opportunities for not just products that entertain but those that inform and enable productivity.

While intended for a broader audience, the commercial ‘open your eyes’ for the freshly released Oculus Go – Facebook’s first standalone virtual reality (VR) headset hyped to finally take VR beyond the niche – may actually resonate particularly well with gamers by promoting enrichment through ‘living every story” and learning to “love a life different from your own.’

In conclusion, gamers – the newfound darling of many marketers across categories – deserve the attention. But stereotypes don’t always apply. To resonate with this group, think enabling fun but also function, and personal achievement but also social connections.

Veronica Chen is a Vice President on the Consumer Life team at GfK. She can be reached at Veronica.chen@gfk.com

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