Are you pondering the question, “Who is the modern mobile gamer?”
You’re in luck because we got the answers!
In this report, we go deep into gamer demographics and behavior. You’ll find out the age, gender, education, and income levels of mobile gamers, as well as their gaming preferences.
Most importantly, this market research breaks down gamer stereotypes and identifies who exactly are modern mobile gamers.
For the most part, this report is based on market research done by AdColony and DISQO in 2020. They surveyed more than 1,200 players, which makes it one of the biggest mobile gamer surveys ever.
If you’re a mobile game publisher or advertiser, this article is for you!
4 Basic Types of Mobile Gamers
Before we get into AdColony’s gamer study, let’s familiarize ourselves with four basic types of mobile gamers. Those are casual, hardcore, social, and mid-core gamers.
Keep in mind, these four categories are very general, we will go deeper into gamer demographics and behavior later in the article.
Casual Mobile Gamers
Casual gamers like to kill time during an office break or while commuting. They really don’t care that much about the genre, as long as they’re entertained and engaged.
A simple puzzle game could do well one day, followed by a complex strategy game the next. Casual gamers simply enjoy a little bit of light fun when they’ve got nothing better to do.
Casual gamers are actually one of the primary reasons why the thriving mobile game industry spends a lot of time on a variety of different gaming genres.
Hardcore Mobile Gamers
Hardcore gamers live and breathe for mobile games. They take titles and progress very seriously and often get frustrated that they don’t have enough “lives” to complete the level.
Much to the displeasure of their friends and family, they are often seen playing a game in the midst of dinner conversations. They keep up-to-date on new upgrades, releases, and plan their time accordingly.
Hardcore gamers are also most likely to be those who keep sending ‘gaming tools’ and ‘extra lives’ requests to their friends on social media. Gamers of this kind are also developing amazing hand-eye coordination and dexterity.
Minor smartphone glitches can cause a major panic attack.
Social gamers love playing multiplayer games with friends and family. They usually associate playing a game, indoor or outdoor, with building relationships. They’re planning get-togethers around important game releases.
If you’re one of them, you might have made many friends in your gaming groups. You like talking to them about game-related trivia and new releases. This type of gamer is also very competitive. They have a sense of achievement when they win against friends and family.
Midcore gamers are talented, but they don’t often spend a lot of time playing the latest games. They dabble in gaming when they’re in the mood, and when they do, they take it seriously.
Midcore gamers usually have a favorite game genre that they stick to. By the way, this category accounts for a good number of players who may have been hardcore gamers before, but have limited their playing time for a variety of reasons.
The Evolution of Mobile Gamer Demographics
Now that you’re familiar with basic gamer types, let’s go deeper and look at some data. We’ll start with gamer demographics.
Over the last couple of years, the mobile gaming industry experienced rapid growth. Mobile games have become the most popular app category by far. Furthermore, mobile games account for 22% of apps on Apple’s App Store and 14% on Google Play.
As the mobile gaming market continues to grow, mobile gamer demographics continue to evolve.
The widespread use of smartphones and having mobile games available at all times of day has led to more and more people playing. Endless fun is right at our fingertips.
However, many advertisers have outdated ideas about who plays mobile games. There are still many stereotypes and preconceived notions about who mobile gamers are that are just plain wrong.
What this report shows is that mobile gamer demographics are quite diverse and span across all ages, genders, regions, education, and income levels.
American Mobile Gamer Demographics
Before we go deeper into demographics data, it’s important to note that AdColony’s study defined three different types of gamers according to frequency, i.e., how often they play.
Those categories are Committed Gamers (49% of American players), Regular Gamers (16%), and Occasional Gamers (13%).
Out of all surveyed users, almost half of them identify themselves as Committed Gamers. Those are gamers who play once to several times a day.
Regular Gamers play once to several times a week, while Occasional Gamers play once to several times a month.
Now that we got this covered, let’s delve deeper into American mobile gamer demographics. In this section, you’ll find out who American gamers are. This data will help you target these players more effectively.
So if America is one of your target markets, make sure to read this carefully.
Traditionally, it was thought that only children and teenagers play games. However, as mobile games became instantly available on everybody’s phones, gamer demographics started to shift.
There’s an increasing number of ‘older’ gamers who play several times a day. According to AdColony’s survey, about 50% of players aged 18 to 54 consider themselves to be Committed Gamers.
What’s surprising is that 36% of surveyed people aged 65 to 74 play once to several times a day, as well as 26% of people over the age of 75.
Another common misconception about mobile gamers is that the majority of them are men, which is also not true.
According to AdColony’s survey, and many others, the number of female and male gamers is very balanced.
When it comes to Committed Gamers, there’s a nearly equal number of female and male gamers – 49%/51%.
Furthermore, out of all the respondents, there are 16% of female Regular Players and 17% of male Regular Players. 14% of surveyed women and 12% of men said they were Occasional players.
When looking at the North American regions, AdColony’s market research shows that mobile gaming is popular from east to west.
The number of Committed players in all regions is higher than that of Regular and Occasional players.
However, there are slightly more Committed Gamers in the West (52%) as opposed to 49% in the Midwest and South, and 47% in the North East. That’s expected considering the Western region is the home of the tech industry.
The United States is very diverse as a country and that’s reflected in mobile gaming demographics, especially when it comes to language.
Considering there are many Spanish speakers in the US, AdColony identifies those players as well.
The study shows that, overall, mobile games are more popular with Spanish speakers (81%), as opposed to non-Spanish speakers (78%).
If we look at playing frequency among Spanish speakers, 48% are Committed Gamers, 22% are Regular Gamers, while only 11% identify as Occasional Gamers.
This is important data for both mobile game studios and advertisers who plan on localizing their content.
AdColony’s study also looked at the link between education levels and playing frequency.
The survey shows that the group without a GED has the highest share of Committed Players (61%).
However, this doesn’t mean that people with higher education don’t play mobile games often.
The group with some type of postgrad education has 54% of Committed Players – similar to those who have a Master’s degree (51%).
Many mobile games rely on in-app purchases or paid subscriptions as main monetization models. For that reason, mobile game studios and advertisers are interested in how much players can spend.
It is clear that the percentage of Committed Players goes up as earning capabilities increase. From that, we can conclude that high-income users tend to play more often.
For example, people who earn $250k and more have the highest share of Committed Players – 65%.
One of the reasons for this might be the fact that many games require in-app purchases in order to continue playing. In other words, there are caps of free playtime. Gamers who have a more significant income have the ability to make in-app purchases that extend their playtime. This results in the ability to play several times a day.
Mobile Gamers According to Game Genre
In this section, we’re going to delve deeper into mobile game genres and its players.
What Are the Most Popular Mobile Game Genres?
If we go back to the first mobile games in the app stores, they were mostly mobile versions of classic games. For example, a mobile iteration of Texas Hold’Em, which is an old traditional game that has been played for years and years.
Then came games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush that changed how we think about mobile gaming. Both are simple games that are immensely addictive.
While there are popular games in other genres, more than 50% of games in the app stores are hyper-casual games. Furthermore, hyper-casual games have the highest install rate in most global markets.
One of the main reasons for this is the fact that hyper-casual games have a mass appeal. They’re simple, straightforward, free, and anyone can play them. You don’t need to be a “gamer”, learn a skill, or think about complicated strategies – just start playing.
That’s the main appeal of hyper-casual games.
In fact, many people in the industry consider them to be more of a business model than a gaming genre, which is true to an extent. However, their popularity has solidified them as a genre as well, even though casual games can be puzzle games, word games, card games, etc.
Who Is Playing Puzzle and Word Games?
A common perception is that puzzle and word games are mostly played by kids and older people. In other words, the youngest and oldest age groups.
However, data shows otherwise.
In fact, most puzzle gamers are millennials. Moreover, this genre is also very popular with the middle-aged audience.
After that, we see a dramatic drop-off that shows us that older generations (54 and older) are not that into puzzle games. However, they do play word games.
This genre is also very popular with a younger audience, aged 18 to 24.
When we look at the gender of puzzle and word gamers, there tends to be more women playing.
What’s interesting is that these two genres are the most popular with affluent players (income level higher than $250k). In other words, a large percentage of the puzzle/word gamers are middle-class and have a high purchasing power.
Who Is Playing Strategy Games?
While the main appeal of hyper-casual games is that they’re minimalistic and have simple game mechanics, that’s not interesting to everybody. There are mobile gamers who like more complicated games that require thinking and planning.
While strategy/RPG gamers tend to skew toward young men (18-24), these games are popular with millennials and gamers between the ages of 35 and 54. There are also many women who play. According to AdColony’s study, “17% of males vs. 15.8% of females say they play titles in the genre.”
But what’s interesting is the education and income level of strategy/RPG gamers. 30% of respondents who earn more than $250k a year say they play strategy and RPG games. The smallest group of strategy/RPG gamers earns under $50k
Furthermore, strategy/RPG players tend to be well educated and most of them have Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees. Almost 20% of them have a Doctorate degree.
To conclude, most strategy/RPG gamers are well-educated, young professionals with a high-income level, living mostly on the West Coast.
Who Is Playing Card and Casino Games?
Out of all the interviewees, almost 23% say they play card games, while nearly 16% play casino games.
What’s interesting is that card/casino games are mostly played by trade school graduates – significantly more than people with any other education level.
When it comes to age, most card gamers fall into the 35-44 age group (26%) and 45-54 age group (25%). Casino players are slightly older overall – the majority of them are 45 to 54 (21%).
Identifying as a Gamer
As we have learned from AdColony’s study, 78% of those surveyed play mobile games, either occasionally or more frequently. However, most people don’t identify themselves as gamers, even the ones who play several times a day.
Why is that?
Well, there are still many stereotypes and misconceptions as to what constitutes a gamer. When they hear the word “gamer”, most people imagine a young man, without a desire to get a job, still living at his parent’s home, and wasting his life on games.
However, the data says otherwise.
Let’s take a look at who self-identified gamers actually are.
Ages of Self-Identified Mobile Gamers
Most self-identified gamers are aged 25-34 (40%). In other words, millennials. The second-largest group of self-identified gamers is aged 18-24 (33%).
A fairly large percentage of the Gen X generation also tends to identify as gamers. Just like millennials, they have grown up with some types of video games, whether on PC or consoles. That probably plays a big part in identifying as gamers.
On the other hand, while many senior citizens play mobile games, some daily, few of them call themselves gamers (just 2.9%).
Gamer Income Levels
When we look at income levels, 29% of respondents that earn $250k or more identify themselves as gamers. The second-largest group of self-identified gamers, 26%, is people on the other side of the spectrum, who earn less than $50k.
Furthermore, 20% of respondents who have a Master’s Degree identify as gamers, and almost 15% of those who have a Ph.D. or a Doctorate.
How Often Do Mobile Gamers Play?
What’s interesting is that big earners tend to play more frequently. 41% of people who earn $250k or more play several times a day. On the other hand, only 34% of people who earn less than $50k play multiple times a day.
Is It Different Across US Regions?
When we take US regions into consideration, there are some interesting finds.
AdColony’s data shows that the largest percent of self-identified gamers comes from the South – 24% identify as gamers, while 76% don’t. 22% of people in the West and 21% in the Northeast identify as gamers, while there’s only 15% of self-identified gamers in the Midwest.
If we look at the average age, gamers from the West are 37 years old. In the Midwest, the average age is 39 and in the South, it’s 38. The oldest self-identified gamers come from the North East – they’re 40 years old on average.
When it comes to frequency, 52% of Westerners play mobile games once or several times a day. Furthermore, 49% of Midwesterners play at least once a day. 35% of Southerners and 33% of players from the Northeast play several times a day.
AdColony’s study also included a question of how many games respondents have installed on their phones.
59% of Westerners, 47% of Midwesterners, 57% of Southerners, and 54% of Northeasterners have 1 to 5 games installed. Players who have more than 10 games installed are very rare.
Types of Mobile Games Gamers Play in Different US Regions
Another interesting piece of data from AdColony’s study shows which genres are popular across these four US regions.
Here are the types of mobile games gamers play in the West, Midwest, South, Northeast, and in general.
Overall, puzzle, word, and card games are the most popular across all regions, which is not surprising. However, card and casino games are played the most in the West, slightly more than in other regions. Westerners also enjoy word and trivia games. Simulation and sports games are popular among Southerners.
The most popular gaming genres in the Midwest are casino, educational, puzzle, family, and simulation games.
The Northeast is not that easy to define as this is a very diverse group that likes all different types of games. However, they do tend to play action, racing, and arcade games more than any other group.
The Gaming Experience
So far, we have concluded that mobile games are for everyone – there’s a lot of diversity among gamers.
As AdColony puts it, “Whether they self-identify with the label or not, gamers span generations, genders, income brackets, education levels, geographies, and almost every other socio-economic, demographic split imaginable”.
However, there are different motivations for playing among gamers.
Motivations for Playing
The results of the survey show that the number one reason for playing is entertainment (67%). Other motivations for playing include boredom/killing time (52%), relaxation (47%), improving skills (18%), competition (12%), social connection (8%), and a sense of community (3%).
This report also covers the relationship between age and three main playing motivations – entertainment, boredom, and relaxation.
For 18-24 and 25-34 groups, entertainment and killing time and are the most important. However, for older gamers, boredom is an important motivation, as much as for younger players. Overall, entertainment is the number one motivation across ages.
Are Mobile Gamers Multitasking While Playing?
Another interesting question from AdColony’s survey is are people multitasking while playing mobile games.
68% answered yes – ranging from sometimes (25%), often (28%), and always (15%). 19% of gamers say they never multitask while playing, and 13% do it rarely.
When we look at multitasking in relation to age, there are some interesting finds.
Basically, the highest percentage of gamers who multitask always/often are in the 18-24 group. As we move up age-wise, that number tends to drop and the percentage of people who never multitask goes up. For example, more than 60% of 75+ gamers never multitask, while that’s true for less than 20% of gamers who are between 18 and 24.
But the question is – what are people doing while playing games?
The majority watches TV (60%). 46% listen to music, while 38% play games while eating or cooking.
Considering mobile games require a fair amount of concentration and engagement, it’s safe to say that TV is a secondary screen. In other words, TV is in the background while people play mobile games. Furthermore, this means that TV doesn’t hold their attention, especially during commercial breaks, when most people reach for their phones.
Mobile Game Monetization: Rewarded Video vs. In-App Purchases
Since most mobile games are free-to-play, developers tend to turn to either in-app ads or in-app purchases as a monetization method. When it comes to in-app ads, rewarded video is used most commonly. 80% of developers use this format, while 68% of publishers rely on IAP. For that reason, rewarded video and in-app purchases were the focus of AdColony’s study.
The reason why rewarded video ads are effective is that players get something in return for watching them – most commonly in-game currency, extra lives, or hints. However, it can be anything that helps players advance in the game.
In-app purchases offer similar rewards. However, players need to purchase them with real money.
When asked, the majority of gamers report they prefer rewarded video over in-app purchases. That’s true for both male and female players. 92% of female and 86% of male players prefer rewarded video.
However, there’s a concern among mobile game publishers that ads can disrupt and negatively affect player experience. However, if rewarded videos are done right, the players can still be pleased with their gaming experience.
Who Is Most Likely to Make a Purchase?
When we look at monetization preferences among different age groups and income levels, we notice the same trend – rewarded videos are favored.
However, while millennials overwhelmingly prefer watching ads (about 80%), they are the most likely to make an in-app purchase (almost 20% prefer IAP). That’s more than any other age group.
While logic would lead us to assume that high-income players are more likely to make a purchase, that’s not the case. According to survey results, players who earn more than $250k favor watching rewarded videos the most. On the other hand, those who earn $100-150k are the most likely to make an in-app purchase.
What Motivates Mobile Gamers to Watch an In-Game Ad?
It is clear that an overwhelming majority of players prefer rewarded video ads. But the question is, what would convince them to watch ads?
According to data from AdColony’s study, about 50% of players say in-game currency, extra lives/chances, and bonuses are the most desired rewards for watching an ad.
About 30% prefer getting hints, power-ups, and instant power-ups.
The least preferred rewards are speeding up timers, skipping levels, and music, news, or entertainment.
When coming up with a rewarded video monetization strategy, we suggest mobile game publishers take these preferences into consideration. The key to high advertising revenue is offering the right rewards for players. If publishers give gamers exactly what they need in a game, they’re much more likely to watch ads and be satisfied with their gaming experience.
Breaking Down Gamer Stereotypes
To finish off this market research, let’s talk some more about gamer stereotypes and why we need to break them.
As this report shows, the idea of a gamer being a young man who’s not financially independent, and is wasting his life playing video games couldn’t be more wrong.
Even though the majority of people who play games are not prone to identifying themselves as gamers, their interests and behavior show otherwise.
To further drive this point home, AdColony’s report looked at gaming devices people own beyond smartphones.
The findings were quite interesting.
Other Gaming Devices People Have in Their Household
If we exclude smartphones, these are gaming devices people have in their homes.
The number one are laptops – almost 50% of respondents have them. The second one is computers – almost 30%. That’s quite expected.
However, as much as 25% of people have a PlayStation in their household. Just above 20% of them have an Xbox, while just under 20% have a Nintendo Switch.
When we break this down further and look at gender, there isn’t a big difference between men and women.
For example, there’s an almost equal amount of men and women who own an Xbox. Moreover, Nintendo Switch is more popular with women than with men.
That’s another clear indication that we can’t look at gamers as exclusively male.
More stereotypes break down when we look at age groups. AdColony’s data clearly shows that gaming is not only for kids and teenagers.
For example, the percentage of people in 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, and 45-54 age brackets are almost the same – 30% on average.
Out of all respondents who own a PlayStation, about 40% of them are aged 18-24 and another 40% is aged 25-34.
However, it’s also popular with people who are 35 to 44 (about 35%).
To finish off, let’s look at the relationship between income/earnings and owning a gaming device.
Here are some quick facts.
Laptop use is the highest among postgrads (62%).
27% of those who have an Associate’s degree own an Xbox. Furthermore, Xbox is popular with 21% of those with a Bachelor’s and Postgrad degrees.
PlayStation usage is the highest among those with no GED (34%). It’s also popular with postgrads (28%).
If we look at earnings, desktop gaming is most popular with people who earn $250k or more. That’s quite expected considering gaming computers are very pricey.
A lot of people who earn $250k also own an Xbox (52%). This console is also popular with respondents who earn $100-149k. Furthermore, 30% of people with this income level also own a PlayStation.
When it comes to Nintendo, it’s the most popular among people who earn $200-249k – 33% own it.
As this study unmistakably shows, gamers are a much more diverse group of people than some think. Your mom, grandad, doctor, and electrician most likely play mobile games.
Gaming is an activity that goes beyond age, gender, education, and income levels. Almost everyone is a gamer in some aspects.
Both game developers and advertisers should rethink their strategies and improve their targeting based on this data. There’s a huge opportunity for reaching a very diverse audience of gamers that are far from outdated stereotypes.