October 15, 2020

Gaming and esports an ‘escape from reality’ for Americans

Author:
Daniel Garcia, Senior Consultant
more than half (55%) have spent more than $50 or more on games since March

Fans of video games take several forms – there’s the hardcore gamers who play into the night, those who treat gaming as a competitive sport, and there’s some who just play occasionally e.g. when a brand-new game is first released.


The types of games themselves can be very different too, from sport, to action to parallel worlds. But if there’s one thing they do have in common, it’s the way they make people feel.

In fact, our new data shows that many Americans have found solace in video games and esports during the pandemic, using them as a way to socialize and take a break from the stress of the outside world.

The research, which takes an in-depth look at the habits of over 500 Americans who have played video games or watched esports during lockdown, shows that almost half (46%) are gaming more than 10 hours per week at the moment.

It has become somewhat multi-purpose during lockdown, with many finding additional benefits to using gaming platforms. Two thirds of respondents say that gaming is entertainment that helps them pass the time and relax, 55% say they use it as a way to socialize with friends, and almost half (45%) say it’s a way to escape reality.

Though the majority of respondents had previous experience gaming or watching esports, 15% were new to it and picked it up after lockdown began – undoubtedly for one of the many reasons previously stated.

Whether the habit sticks is another question. Those who were either new to gaming or had noticeably increased the amount they were playing straight after lockdown began are also most likely to say they expect to game less once lockdown is lifted (45% and 24% respectively).

Many gamers turn to streaming services to get their fix, and those who do tend to spend a significant amount of time using them per week. More than half (55%) say that they are spending more than six hours watching video games/esports on the likes of Twitch, Patreon and YouTube on a weekly basis.

What are the most popular ways to game?

When it comes to consoles, there’s not one standout leader. In fact, they are relatively equal in terms of most used, with the most notably owned being PlayStation, PC, Nintendo and X-Box in that order.

Nintendo Switch shows the highest proportion of being bought after quarantine began (41%), but PlayStation has seen the highest amount of purchases now that the country is slowly making its way out of quarantine. Of gamers who have more than one console, PlayStation received the highest preference at 38%.

More than half of gamers are familiar with both X-Box and PlayStation’s subscription services (X-Box Live Gold and X-Box Game pass, and PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now). Nintendo Switch Online and EA Access also garnered awareness from almost half of our respondents.

Looking at memberships, PlayStation Plus and Nintendo Switch online had the highest volume of subscribers from their user base (about 2/3 of their platform users had their subscription service – 67% and 63% respectively). Of the memberships that were started after lockdown began, X-Box Game Pass (15%) had

the highest amount followed by PlayStation Plus (14%), X-Box Live Gold and PlayStation Now (13%).

Eight in ten (80%) gamers are playing 3 games or more each month from their subscription service, and that number changes to almost 58% when we bump it up to 4 games or more. A fifth of gamers are playing more than 6 games from their subscription service.

About 1 in 5 of the gamers in our survey say they are aware of Stadia, a new player in the gaming space – and of those who are aware, about a quarter are currently Stadia users. Of those who have Stadia, 72% signed up to it after lockdown began.

When it comes to spending money, four in five (80%) respondents use free games and esports channels for at least some of their gaming. But many are willing to shell out if they believe it’s worth it – more than half (55%) have spent more than $50 on games since March.

For almost half (46%), this type of spend is similar to what they would usually allocate for games and hasn’t changed due to COVID-19. However, more than a third (35%) say that they’ve actually been spending more as a result of the lockdown.

What’s next for gaming and esports post lockdown?

Those who are quick to judge video games and esports platforms may be interested to see the ways in which they have benefitted many Americans over the past few months. At a time where communication with others and finding small snippets of entertainment have been crucial, video games have provided a number of people with a form of solace and escape from a bleak reality.

Whether or not the gaming trajectory continues as the real world opens back up remains to be seen, but many gamers may look to continue using these platforms not only for the gaming aspect, but socially too.

To find out more about this research, please get in touch and speak to one of our experts.


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