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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Analysing the 2022 Essential Facts About the Video Game Industry, and Purchase Behaviours

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - More facts! More analysis! Let's go!

In what I'm considering an annual delight, the Entertainment Software Association (the ESA—the videogame industry's American lobbyist and trade group) has released their 2022 Essential Facts About the Video Game Industry (archived here in case something happens to the original). This surveyed about 2,000 American adults with an online survey during February 2022.

Last year I wrote about the 2021 Essential Facts About the Videogame Industry. The Table of Contents between the two years is the same, except 2021 had a “Video Games and the COVID-19 Pandemic” section while 2022 scrapped that and added the “Building Community Through Play” and “The Video Game Market and Purchasing Habits” sections. The ESA's big headline is that 92% of players report spending as much or MORE time playing now than they did during the peak of the pandemic and the government-imposed lockdowns of society. They define players as those who play a videogame at least one hour a week—though the median game time is quite a bit higher than that. The average age of a gamer went from 31 years old in 2021 to 33 years old in 2022... Which means that more older people got into gaming this year, or less younger people did, and it nudged up. Gaming is still dominated by white people, 71% of gamers said they were white. (Down from 73% white in 2021; but at par or better with the average population, depending how you want to count multi-ethnic people.)

Americans widely, like last year, view gaming as a beneficial force in society. 89% believe it can help build some kind of skill, with the vast majority acknowledging cognitive, creative, and collaboration skills. Lesser majorities see benefits in communication and leadership skills. Many gamers also see benefits in stress relief and mental stimulation (both of those were 87% in 2021, but now 89% and 91% respectively).

As for the new Building Community Through Play section, they didn't really ask new questions, but rather moved around questions from previous sections to this section. A big example is that 83% of gamers will play multiplayer games (whether it's online or in-person), which is up from 77% in 2021 and 65% in 2020. Here the ESA reveals the average player will play 13 hours a week (I'm above average, personally), and 41% of that time is with other people (16% in-person, and 25% online... or about 2 hours in-person and 3 hours online).

As for who is in this community, 56% of the time gamers play with friends, while 43% it's with “online only” friends (up from 23% last year... a significant jump). 35% game with their spouse or partner, 25% with their children, and only 7% play with their parents. Those last two numbers seem low for a future section. I called out a 42% number last year of players who met a good friend, spouse, or significant other through gaming. Now that's up to 46%, and more gamers report meeting friends and having good social interaction with games this year than last year.

Player Habits and Preferences is where we see bigger and unusual changes. In 2021, the breakdown was 57% smartphone, 46% game console, and 42% personal computer. In 2022, that's 70% smartphone, 52% game console, and 43% PC. (And they threw in a 7% Virtual Reality device that wasn't asked about or reported on before.) Smartphones jumped. In 2021, they had the most popular genres including 63% Casual games and 33% Family games. In 2022, Casual was renamed and redefined into Puzzle games at 65% and also Skill & Chance at 46%. It looks like Family was expanded into “Arcade & Other” at 57%. Clearly, that last category ballooned in scope to the point that year-to-year comparison is meaningless. So... best not to.

In a year-to-year comparison that the ESA definitely did NOT put attention to, in 2021, they reported that 86% of parents were aware of ESRB ratings, and 76% of parents regularly used them. In 2022, that fell to 84% and 75%. Yeah, it's within the margin of error, but they want those numbers to go up. Then they said that 77% of parents play games with their children at least weekly (up from 74% in 2021). Now... remember that only 25% of gamers said they played with their children, and only 7% said they played with their parents. I think the discrepancy is that most gamers must not have their children, so they're reporting they don't play with kids they don't have. And I guess most gamers don't have parents, either. Rest in peace.

Millennial gamers (well, some Gen Z has sneaked in now) between ages 18 to 34 are still the ones driving game console usage. 66% play on consoles, but 67% now play on smartphones. Both of those are up from 2021's 58% and 57%, respectively. But for the 35–44 demographic, we went from 64% playing on a smartphone and 53% on a console in 2021 to a startling 77% smartphone and 57% game console. Smartphone usage is similarly up for other demographics, but the biggest jump is the 65+ group. In 2021, 61% of seniors played on a PC, and only 34% on one of those new-fangled phones. But just one year later, only 57% of seniors are playing on PC, while 63% are playing on phones. PC actually dropped! Seniors were carrying PC gaming on their backs/wheelchairs, and it's collapsing now with smartphone play dominant everywhere. This should address Captain Stitch's comment from last month about what happens with the casual game genre when people are getting older... it's getting stronger. (Though it's hard to make genre conclusions when they redefined the genres year-to-year, but what do you THINK people do on their smartphones?)

Finally, the last section of the report. In 2021, it ended. In 2022, we get to dig into purchasing habits. First, they reported that Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl, just based on physical sales, were collectively the top four PC/console games in the United States in 2021. That's impressive. Though Call of Duty: Vanguard got the number one spot. Boo. But the last two pages have very interesting stats:

  • 50% of gamers say the overall quality of a game influences their purchasing decision
  • 44% of gamers are sensitive to a game's price
  • 35% of gamers are swayed by how interesting a game's story or premise is
  • 27% of gamers report relying on familiarity with past experiences
  • Only 25% of gamers report a top influence being video reviews/gameplay
  • 86% of players pay attention to review scores, and 63% will only consider a game with a 7/10 or higher (only with 52% saying a minimum of 7 or 8, and 11% a minimum of 9 or 10)

While 86% of players will pay attention to review scores, a much lower percentage say that they are actually useful when making a purchase decision... and apologies for not having an image in the article until now:

ESA 2022 Essential Facts about the video game industry purchasing decision videos professional reviews
Only 32% of people find professional reviews to be useful!
But there are no consensus picks and it contradicts the page above it, I think?

It might make sense that 45% of gamers say videos of gameplay are USEFUL for a purchasing decision, but only 25% cite videos of gameplay to be a top influence. Useful seems to be the broader category than being a top influence... which I think means that professional reviews don't even make it on that list of TOP influences. As I wrote extensively yesterday, many professional reviews nowadays are actually worse than useless—they're actively misleading and deceptive pieces of fraud. As more and more people realise that, I'm hoping that the 32% falls even further. Eventually people will maybe stop paying attention to review scores/numbers as well. If the videogame critic who wrote the review is a fraud, then the number they give at the end of the review is also a fraud. You shouldn't separate those concepts.

39% (higher than 32%) find user reviews to be useful as well. And I'd caution you on that too, because there are several games where organised (and even cultish) users write fake reviews. I think gamers know all of these things are true and all of these methods have flaws... which is why there isn't a factor that has a majority of people saying they'll factor that into their purchasing decision. So many things have bad stinks and eroded trust that it's hard to know what to rely on. But at least it's clear that professional reviewers aren't the way to go.

You probably shouldn't trust KoopaTV, unless your tastes match the weird ones that the staff has. Though you should trust that you should buy Ace Attorney games. At least you'll know that KoopaTV staffers aren't being paid by any gaming companies or receive gifts from them to write positively about their products. What did you think about this report? Did you find it essential? How come the ESA released 2021's in July but 2022's in June? Were they doing this instead of E3 2022?

The 2022 Essential Facts report also mentioned the number of ESRB ratings given in 2021 per rating, with an average of between E and E10+.


  1. Overall very interesting, I’ve been looking forward to this article. In regards to my previous comment, I think I’d like to see the data for the generation of senior gamers after this one. While casual gaming could still get stronger, this current senior generation is made up of the people who bought their children game consoles but never really played them at the time. I want to know how people who grew up playing those video games consoles will have their video game tastes differ as they age.

    Of course it will be especially interesting to know what gamers who grew up with “hardcore/complex” games like Halo or Mario Oddessy, will choose to play when they get older. Arcade games can be very tricky, but I think we can all agree that the basic gameplay is a lot simpler than the average game today, and those arcade games could probably be very well compared to modern puzzlers like candy crush. I predict that we could very well see a steady increase in casual gaming until the Halo/oddesy generation gets old and then casual gaming will start to decline. I mean I love casual games in addition to more complex ones, but not everyone feels the same way. If only they knew that so-called casual games become a whole lot harder once you get past the first couple stages.

    Error! Missing a parentheses in the very last paragraph, in the part about ace attorney.

    1. Generation of senior gamers after this one? So, uh, people who are currently 45-64 but wait twenty years from now?

      I changed my mind and didn't want to make that statement parenthetical. <.<

    2. Yes, assuming KoopaTv will still be around, between our memory lapses, we will discuss it.

      Well allllllllright, but it was still an error! And just before the next monthly lookback, so the corrections corner will be filled once more. My mission that I promised to you all those months ago has been fulfilled! Of course I make a lotto typos m'self, but that's besides my point...

    3. Yeah, yeah, I'll talk about the parenthesis. Good night.


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