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Research: How Different Generations Engage with Games?

Research: How Different Generations Engage with Games?

Gaming is huge and it’s only getting more popular. It’s one of the favorite leisure activities for millions of people.

However, gaming is not a popular pastime for younger generations only. We see more and more Gen X and Baby Boomers take up gaming, making the gamer audience even more diverse.

Understanding the nuances between how different groups of players engage with games is crucial if you’re a game developer or game marketer. It helps you better define your target audience, optimize your user acquisition campaigns, and mold your monetization strategies to fit player preferences.

To learn more about the relationship between different generations and gaming, read our summary of the recent Newzoo report.

generations and entertainment

Are All Generations into Gaming?

First off, let’s talk about time commitment.

According to Newzoo’s data, Gen Alpha leads the pack, dedicating 22% of their entertainment time to gaming. Gen Z is not far behind at 19%, followed by Millennials at 18%. Gen X allocates 14% of their time, while Baby Boomers lag with only 11%.

But what about other forms of entertainment?

It turns out that across all generations, gaming competes with a range of activities such as streaming movies or shows, social networking, watching TV, listening to podcasts, and even good old reading. Despite the competition, gaming holds a significant share of entertainment time.

Now, if you’re keen on knowing who the gaming enthusiasts really are, the report highlights some compelling percentages.

gaming enthusiasts by generation

Gen Alpha comes out on top again, boasting a whopping 94% of game enthusiasts within the generation. Gen Z follows suit at 90%, and Millennials aren’t too far behind with 82%.

The enthusiasm noticeably tapers off as we move to older generations—Gen X sits at 64%, and Baby Boomers round out the group with 43%.

viewing games by generation

How Generations Engage with Gaming?

If you think playing is the only way people connect with the gaming universe, think again. The landscape has evolved far beyond the traditional joystick and screen setup.

Let’s delve into the numbers.

When it comes to actually playing games, Gen Alpha and Gen Z are leading the charge, with 93% and 88% engagement respectively.

But here’s the kicker—43% of Gen Alpha don’t just play; they engage with gaming in many different ways. This includes viewing content, joining gaming communities, following streamers, and even creating their own content.

Talk about an all-rounded involvement with gaming!

Popular gaming platforms like Minecraft, Roblox, and Fortnite are more than just arenas for gameplay for these younger demographics. They’ve become immersive social spaces, like virtual playgrounds.

It’s not just about conquering a level or getting a high score anymore. For many younger generations, gaming is a part of their daily social lives and identities.

In essence, it’s less of a hobby and more of a lifestyle.

What makes this multi-dimensional engagement so intriguing?

Well, it opens new doors for brands that may not directly relate to gaming but want to tap into these dynamic audiences. The younger generations are not merely players; they are creators, viewers, and active members of gaming communities.

And for brands, that’s an opportunity too enticing to ignore.

social features in games by generation

Importance of Social Features in Games

You might remember a time when video games were considered a solitary pursuit. Well, times have changed.

In today’s interconnected world, social features in games have skyrocketed in importance, especially among younger generations.

When you break down the stats, it becomes clear how crucial the social aspect is for younger players. More than 60% of both Gen Alpha and Gen Z indicate that the ability to socialize and play with others is a significant factor for them. This isn’t just casual interest; it’s a defining component of their gaming experience.

But what kinds of social features are we talking about?

A remarkable 71% of Gen Alpha players are keen on competitive elements in games. They want the thrill of going head-to-head with other players.

And the desire for co-op features? That sits at an impressive 73% for Gen Alpha, in stark contrast to just 18% of Baby Boomers who share the same sentiment.

It’s evident that the younger the player, the more likely they are to crave a communal experience, be it through competition or cooperation. This shift toward social gaming is a significant change that’s reshaping how we should think about game design and player engagement for years to come.

identifying as a gamer for different generations

Generations and Gaming: Identifying as a Gamer

Ever met someone who spends hours on end playing games but shies away from the gamer label?

You’re not alone.

The term ‘gamer’ carries varied weight across different generations, and how one identifies with it can be quite telling.

Let’s sift through some surprising numbers.

Would you believe that only 8% of female Baby Boomer players and 12% of their male counterparts actually consider themselves gamers? Despite regularly playing games, they hesitate to adopt the gamer identity.

On the flip side, younger male players show no such reservations.

Not only do they play games, but they also readily accept and even take pride in the gamer label. Both male and female players in younger generations are more inclined to identify as gamers, signaling a cultural shift where gaming is no longer just an activity but a part of one’s identity.

So, what does this tell us?

The term gamer is undergoing a generational evolution.

As gaming becomes more deeply embedded in our social fabric and daily life, the willingness to identify as a gamer shifts. What was once perhaps considered a niche hobby is now a mainstream cultural phenomenon, and being a gamer is celebrated by newer generations.

mobile games by generation

Mobile Is the Top Gaming Platform

If you’re curious about which gaming platform reigns supreme, you might want to look no further than the device in your hand. Yes, mobile gaming has captivated players from all generations, becoming the go-to platform for many.

The statistics are rather eye-opening: a staggering 81% of Gen Alpha players are tapping away on mobile devices.

But why is mobile so universally appealing?

It boils down to accessibility.

Mobile devices are omnipresent, affordable, and don’t require players to be tethered to a specific location. It’s gaming on the go, in the truest sense.

But don’t let mobile’s popularity make you think other platforms are no longer popular. A considerable percentage of younger generations game across mobile, console, and PC.

It’s less about platform loyalty and more about enjoying a multi-platform experience.

So, what’s the takeaway?

Mobile has successfully leveled the playing field, offering a versatile platform that goes beyond generational divides. Yet, the younger players are seizing the opportunity to game across multiple platforms, embracing the full spectrum of what the gaming world has to offer.

motivations for playing games by generation
favorite game genres by generation

Generations and Gaming: Difference in Player Motivations

If you’re assuming everyone plays games for the same reasons, it’s time to adjust that mindset. Different generations find different aspects of gaming appealing, and understanding these motivations can offer a unique window into the gaming psyche.

For younger players, social interaction, immersion, and achievement keep them glued to the screen. They’re not just in it to win; they’re looking for a deep, enriching experience that allows them to connect with others and be part of a larger narrative.

But what about Millennials and Gen X?

For them, immersion stands out as a significant pull. The idea of losing oneself in a virtual world is equally enticing for these age groups.

Switch gears to the older generations, and you’ll find a different set of motivations at play—creativity, mastery, and aesthetics take the front seat. These players are drawn to the artistic elements of games, the challenge of mastering intricate systems, and the joy of creative problem-solving.

Interestingly, younger generations seem to have a broader range of reasons for playing.

The motivations for playing games are as varied as the players themselves. Whether it’s the social connection, the immersive experiences, or the sheer thrill of victory, each generation finds its own unique hook.

favorite game genres by generation

Which Genres are the Most Popular?

When it comes to the kinds of games that people are playing, not all generations have the same taste. Each has its own favorites, and the differences in genre preferences are genuinely intriguing.

For instance, Gen Alpha is showing a flair for diversity, diving into an average of six different genres.

The adventure genre is the favorite for players of Gen Alpha, Gen Z, and Millennial generations. That’s not the end of the story; racing games and battle royale games are also grabbing their attention.

On the other end of the spectrum, Gen X and Baby Boomers seem to have a sweet spot for puzzles and match games.

So, why these particular genres?

It all connects back to what different generations find appealing in games.

Younger players prioritize exploration and open worlds, as well as multiplayer and social aspects—features commonly found in adventure, racing, and battle royale games. Older players, meanwhile, gravitate toward puzzle-solving aspects and the game’s theme or setting, which aligns well with their love for puzzle and match games.

The moral of this story is that genres aren’t one-size-fits-all. They offer different experiences that cater to varied player motivations and expectations.

spending habits in mobile games among different generations

Generations and Gaming: Spending Habits

Let’s talk spending, shall we?

The financial side of gaming is where generational lines become particularly noticeable. If you’ve ever wondered who’s most likely to open their wallets for gaming, you might be intrigued by what the numbers show.

First off, younger generations are far more prone to spend on video games. Roughly 6 out of 10 individuals in the Gen Alpha, Gen Z, and Millennial groups have spent money on video games or in-game purchases in the past six months. That’s a considerable slice of players investing not just time but also money into their gaming experiences.

generations and gaming: spending platforms

But where are these transactions taking place?

Once again, mobile comes out on top. The majority of spending across all generations happens on mobile platforms, with consoles coming in as the second most popular avenue for spending.

So not only are younger generations more willing to spend on gaming, but they, along with older players, are mostly doing so on mobile. It’s another testament to mobile gaming’s unparalleled reach and influence across generations.

Who Are the Biggest Spenders?

So, we’ve established that people are spending on games, but who’s really breaking the bank here? If you’re guessing it’s the younger crowd, you’re on the right track, but there’s more to the story.

Interestingly, while mobile may be the most popular platform, it’s not where the big spenders primarily reside. Consoles and PC take that crown, boasting the largest number of big spenders across all generations.

Gen Z and Millennials particularly stand out as the most likely candidates for more significant gaming investments. They’re the ones most willing to part with their dollars for that extra in-game edge or exclusive content.

One common thread across generations is the allure of free-to-play games. They dominate all platforms in terms of popularity. However, younger generations show a greater willingness to engage with pay-to-play games compared to their older counterparts.

In a nutshell, the biggest spenders are found among younger generations and are more inclined to splash out on console and PC games. But regardless of age or platform, free-to-play games are universally compelling, proving that the best things in life are, indeed, free—well, at least to start with!

generations and gaming: currency

What Players Spend the Most On?

Diving deeper into the wallet, it’s essential to understand exactly what ‘players are spending their hard-earned money on. If you think everyone is spending on the same items, think again.

For starters, in-game currencies are the universal crowd-pleasers, bringing in spenders from all generations. Players need those extra gems, coins, or whatever the currency is.

Now, let’s get generational.

Gen Alpha and Gen Z are into purchasing playable characters and heroes. They seem to value the diversity and unique abilities that new characters bring to their gaming experience.

On the flip side, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers are more into buying gear, expansion packs, or additional content. They’re the kind who want to enrich their current gameplay experience.

The takeaway here is that spending habits in gaming are as diverse as the generations that make up the player base. While some items like in-game currencies have universal appeal, other preferences diverge, often falling along generational lines.

motivation to spend in games by generation

What Motivates Different Generations to Spend?

If you’ve ever wondered what drives someone to hit that “Buy Now” button in a game, the motivations are as varied as the games themselves.

Interestingly, these motivations often correlate with age.

For Gen Alpha and Gen Z, the allure of exclusive or extra content is the leading reason they decide to spend. The sense of unlocking something unique is a big motivation to spend for these younger players.

Oh, and let’s not forget the desire to personalize their in-game characters—that’s a big one too.

In contrast, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers are swayed by special offers. A good deal is hard to pass up, and these generations know it. They’re also keen on spending to advance in the game, perhaps indicative of a more goal-oriented approach to gaming.

viewing games statistics

Generations and Gaming: Viewing Gaming Content

Now, let’s shift the spotlight to an aspect of gaming that’s gaining serious momentum—viewing gaming content. Yes, watching someone else play a game is a thing, and it’s bigger than you might think.

The majority of younger players, that includes both Gen Alpha and Gen Z, are not just playing; they’re also watching. Whether it’s live-streams, tutorials, or reviews, these generations engage with gaming on multiple levels.

Millennials are also in on this trend.

More than half of them are both players and viewers, embracing the best of both worlds. It seems like the social and interactive aspects of gaming content are captivating this age group as well.

But when it comes to Baby Boomers, viewing isn’t really their cup of tea. They prefer to stick to the basics—just playing. Maybe it’s a generational thing, or perhaps they simply don’t see the fun in watching someone else play.

Regardless, the popularity of viewing gaming content among younger players signifies an evolving landscape. Gaming is not just about picking up the controller; it’s also about tuning in to what others are doing, opening up exciting new avenues for both players and content creators alike.

generations and gaming: content

What Type of Content Is the Most Popular?

So, you know that people are watching gaming content, but what exactly are they tuning in for? Surprisingly, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

For everyone except Baby Boomers, gameplay videos take the first place. These videos provide an immersive peek into different games, giving players insights, tips, and sometimes just pure entertainment.

Millennials, Gen X, and yes, even those Baby Boomers who do watch, place game trailers as their second favorite type of content to consume. Trailers offer a glimpse into upcoming games or updates, and they usually pack quite the cinematic punch.

Now, for the younger folks in Gen Alpha and Gen Z, comedy gaming videos and content from streamers or content creators also resonate strongly. Humor and personality add another layer to their gaming experience, making it about more than just the game itself.

So, depending on the generation, people are looking for different things from the content they view. While some want to see a game dissected and understood, others are there for the laughs or the community.

generations and gaming

Why Players Watch Gaming Content?

Ever wondered why someone might prefer to watch a game rather than play it? The reasons are intriguing and, in many ways, universal across generations.

The number one reason for tuning into gaming content?

It’s to get ideas on things to do in games and how to play them.

Yes, it’s a learning curve, and players use this content as a roadmap to improve their own gameplay. It’s a bit like having a cheat sheet, except it’s public and everyone has access to it.

Coming in at the second place is high-level gameplay. For many, it’s like watching professional sports; you’re seeing the game played at its finest.

Rounding out the top three reasons is the aspect of learning from other players. Whether it’s tactics, tips, or some unknown game feature, the community wisdom is invaluable. It’s a way of broadening one’s gaming horizons, and you’d be surprised at the little nuggets of knowledge one can pick up.

So, across generations, the motivations for watching gaming content boil down to a mix of education and admiration, revealing that the culture of viewing isn’t just a passive experience—it’s an active form of engagement.

Generations and Gaming: A Summary

From Gen Alpha to Baby Boomers, gaming is a universal language, but each generation speaks its own dialect.

While younger generations are deeply embedded in multi-dimensional engagement, their older counterparts tend to stick with simpler forms of interaction. Social features and cooperative gameplay significantly resonate with the youth, whereas baby boomers and Gen X prioritize creativity and mastery.

When it comes to identifying as gamers, younger players are more eager to identify with that label than older ones.

In terms of platforms, mobile reigns supreme across the board, but younger players also embrace consoles and PCs. Different generations seek out distinct genres and features in games, but they also share some common ground in what motivates them to play—and spend.

Lastly, except for Baby Boomers, gameplay videos are a hit for viewing, serving both educational and entertainment purposes.

What does all of this mean?

Simply that the gaming ecosystem is as varied as the people who inhabit it, and understanding these nuances can help you find success in the gaming industry.

Udonis

About Udonis

Udonis is an independent full-service mobile marketing agency that acquired more than 300,000,000 users for mobile games since 2018.

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