Gen Alpha and Gen Z Gamers: How They Engage with Games

Gen Alpha and Gen Z Gamers: How They Engage with Games

by Andrea Knezovic

There are notable differences in how younger generations, i.e., Gen Alpha and Gen Z gamers, engage with games, compared to older generations. Moreover, to get insight into the future of gaming and market trends, we need to look at these young generations and their relationship to games, as they’re shaping the future of gaming.

In this article, we take a deep dive into the interests and behaviors of Gen Alpha and gen Z gamers to learn why they play games, how much they spend on games, and more!

Data source: Newzoo

  • Gen Alpha (born 2010 or later / 10-12 y.o.)
  • Gen Z (born 1995-2009 / 13-27 y.o.)

Do Gen Alpha and Gen Z Play Games?

The first question we should answer is, “Are younger generations into gaming?”

As you might expect, gaming is still the favorite pastime of young people. Just like Millennials, the generation that came before them, Gen Z, and particularly Gen Alpha, are very much into gaming, even more so than previous generations.

gen alpha gen z types of entertainment

If we look at the total online population, people spend most of their free time on social media (20%) and watching broadcast TV (20%). 14% of their leisure time is spent engaging with video games.

Gen Z spends less time watching TV, but they do spend 23% of their free time on social media and 17% on playing games and engaging with gaming content.

Gen Alpha, on the other hand, spends the majority of their leisure time on games – 21%, making games the number one source of entertainment for this generation.

This goes to show how important gaming and gaming content is to both Gen Alpha and Gen Z.

types of engagement by generation

Types of Engagement: Gen Alpha vs. Gen Z

We’ve learned that games are an integral part of younger generations’ lives.

However, it’s interesting how these generations engage with games. They’re not interacting only as players, but also as viewers, members of online gaming communities, and more. Moreover, many call themselves gaming enthusiasts.

We can characterize game enthusiasts as consumers who engage with gaming through playing, viewing, owning, and/or social behavior.

Interestingly, 79% of the overall population are game enthusiasts, but as many as 90% of Gen Z and 94% of Gen Alpha fall into this category.

Furthermore, 92% of Gen Alpha play games, while 70% watch gaming content. Similarly, 88% of Gen Z play games, while 68% of them view gaming-related content.

48% of Gen Alpha and 44% of Gen Z engage with games in other ways, which include following gaming channels, visiting online gaming communities, socializing with other gamers, listening to gaming podcasts, and attending gaming conventions.

Finally, as many as 42% of Gen Alpha and 39% of Gen Z engage across all three types, which tells us their means of engagement are quite diverse. As a comparison, only 28% of the total population engages across all three types.

Here’s more info on younger generations’ play behaviors.

Gen Alpha and Gen Z Gamers: Play Behaviors

An important piece of information about Gen Alpha and Gen Z gamers is which platforms they use for gaming. How much they play is another interesting data point.

Let’s explore both.

Top Platforms

Mobile is by far the most popular platform for Gen Alpha and Gen Z gamers. 73% and 69% of them engage with games on their mobile phones, making them primarily mobile gamers. That’s not surprising considering these generations grew up with smartphones, which are the most accessible platform for games.

Both generations play equally on PC – 41% and 42% respectively.

Where there’s a notable difference between these two generations is consoles. There are more Gen Alpha console players (46%) than Gen Z console players (38%).

Average Playtime

If we look at the total online population, the average playing time is 5 hours. For Gen Alpha and Gen Z gamers, that number is significantly higher.

On average, Gen Z gamers play for 6 hours and 10 minutes. Gen Alpha gamers spend even more time playing – 6 hours and 49 minutes on average.

Viewing Gaming Content & Esports

As we’ve established, younger generations are into viewing gaming content, not just playing games.

Here’s more info on the relationship between viewing and Esports, as well as reasons why these generations like to view gaming content.

There are 70% of total Gen Alpha viewers, and 68% of Gen Z viewers, while only 32% and 33% fall into the category of Esports audience, i.e., viewers that watched Esports in the past year.

The top three reasons Gen Alpha views gaming content are to get ideas for playing, learn from other players, and see skilled gameplay. For Gen Z, seeing high-skill level gameplay is the most important, followed by getting new ideas for playing, and learning from others.

why generations play games

What Appeals to Gen Alpha and Gen Z Gamers?

So far, we’ve learned that the two youngest generations play more than any other generation. The next question is what are the main reasons they play and which game elements appeal to them the most?

Let’s find out.

For Gen Z players, it’s all about the social aspect of gaming. They’re into multiplayer games that allow them to communicate and hang out with friends and other players.

Gen Alpha players also value social aspects, which is not surprising considering both generations were heavily affected by lockdowns. However, social features are third on their list of most appealing features in video games. The first two are exploring open worlds and game themes or settings.

The Importance of Social Features for Gen Alpha and Gen Z Gamers

Let’s delve a little deeper into the social aspect of gaming, as there are many different ways to socialize in games.

For both Gen Alpha and Gen Z gamers, the following social features are the most important:

  • Ability to socialize with other players or friends
  • Ability to compete with other players or friends
  • Ability to cooperate towards a common goal with other players or friends

Gen Alpha and Gen Z Gamers’ Spending Behavior

Finally, let’s explore the spending behavior and habits of the young generations.

If we compare Gen Alpha and Gen Z gamers to the total online population, it’s clear that the younger generations are much more likely to spend on games. More specifically, 52% of Gen Alpha and 52% of Gen Z gamers are payers, while only 42% of the total population are payers.

Furthermore, Gen Alpha and Gen Z gamers spend the most on mobile games. That makes sense considering mobile is also their favorite platform playing.

Main Motivations for Spending

You’re probably wondering what motivates these generations to spend money on games.

According to Newzoo’s research, unlocking exclusive content is the number one reason for making a purchase for both Gen Alpha and Gen Z. It’s followed by personalizing characters or items.

That tells us these generations want to enrich and improve their gaming experience and are willing to pay for it.

in game purchases generations

In-Game Purchases

93% of Gen Alpha and 91% of Gen Z have spent money on in-game purchases during the past 6 months. Let’s find out what exactly Gen Alpha and Gen Z gamers are spending on.

For Gen Alpha, the number one item is gear – 31% spent money on it. Playable characters and in-game currency are also high on the list.

Gen Z spends the most money on in-game currencies (28%). Gear and playable characters come second and third in terms of spending.

Gen Alpha and Gen Z Gamers: A Summary

Newzoo’s report taught us that young generations are playing games more than any previous generation. That means that gaming is only getting more popular.

Because these are mobile generations, the majority of playing is done on mobile phones. Even though the mobile gaming market has slowed down a bit after the pandemic, the future of mobile gaming is looking bright.

The same goes for spending – young generations are spending on games, which opens up various monetization opportunities for developers, especially those based on in-game purchases.


About Udonis

Udonis is an independent full-service mobile marketing agency that acquired more than 200,000,000 users for mobile games since 2018.

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