Industry News

Survey: The ‘gamer’ demographic has shifted, creating more opportunities for developers

by Katie Jansen on Feb 13, 2019

In a survey AppLovin conducted with Censuswide in the US and UK that polled over 4,000 smartphone owners, we found that over two-thirds of smartphone owners don’t identify as gamers, even though they play mobile games three to four times a week. One reason many do not label themselves as gamers may be the fact that gaming has historically been male-dominated. It’s not surprising that our survey found that more men than women identified as gamers (36% of men vs. 22% of women).

When people hear the term “gamer,” they most likely think about men in their twenties. For years, the stereotype that “gamers” are young men persisted because that was the most vocal group. For some developers, creating games for young males was an easy bet, but that preconception is outdated.

Over two-thirds of smartphone owners don’t identify as gamers, even though they play mobile games three to four times a week.

Additionally, our survey found that smartphone owners aged 55 and older generally do not consider themselves gamers. Interestingly, of this demographic, 85% did not identify as gamers, even though 30% of them play mobile games every day. Only 14% of respondents aged 55 and older have never played a mobile game. It’s clear that while many of those surveyed may not consider themselves gamers, gaming has been democratized across gender and age, and more people than ever are playing mobile games.

Unsurprisingly, casual games proved most popular on mobile—24% of those surveyed picked casual puzzle games as their favorite type of mobile game. Strategy came in at a distant second with 13% of the vote.

“Growth in the casual game market continues to accelerate year after year,” said Alex Malafeev, co-founder of Sensor Tower. “In 2018, our research indicates a 20% increase in casual mobile games across both Google Play and the App Store’s top ten mobile games as compared to 2017.”

One of the big reasons for casual gaming’s success is that there are very minimal barriers to entry. 66% of respondents said that the ability to play for free is what they value most in a mobile game. This was closely followed by ease of access—53% said that how easy a game is to play and understand is the second most important aspect of a mobile game.

The casual genre is extremely easy for anyone to get into, thanks to the free-to-play model and intuitive gameplay. This explains why the hyper-casual genre saw tremendous growth in 2018. However, respondents made it clear that forcing players to buy items to progress is not a viable strategy for game devs—58% listed this as their biggest pet peeve in mobile games.  

Today, more people are playing games than ever. Mobile games comprise more than half of the global games market, bringing in $70.3 billion in 2018, according to Newzoo. To put this into perspective, mobile games made more money than PC, console, and browser games combined. Newzoo expects consumer spending on mobile games to exceed $100 billion by 2021.

Even though smartphone growth is declining slowly, there’s no indication that growth in the mobile gaming industry is slowing any time soon. Smash hits like Fortnite and PUBG show that full console-quality games can see massive success on mobile, and when 5G enables game streaming to take off, we can expect mobile gaming to grow even more.

What this survey shows is that mobile has democratized gaming, and as a result, developers should keep an open mind about the changing “gamer” demographic to find niches to fill. On mobile, these niches might represent only a small slice of the pie, but by virtue of the size of the industry, they could still allow you to scale your business beyond what’s possible on console or PC.


Note: Information for this survey is based on research conducted by Censuswide, with 4,066 UK and US General respondents (Aged 16+) between 12/21/2018 – 12/28/2018. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society, which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

If you would like to see a version of the infographic with only US numbers, click here

If you would like to see a version of the infographic with only UK numbers, click here.

Katie Jansen is AppLovin’s Chief Marketing Officer. In addition to her work, Katie is an advocate for women in tech and equality in the workplace.