“The spotlight on gaming has never been brighter and it will continue to shine throughout 2021. While lifestyles have changed due to COVID-19, gamers’ core motivations for playing have remained relatively the same. Most gamers look to video games to unwind and take a break from daily stresses; playing to pass the time, have fun and socialize are also motivators. Making casual gamers feel like they’re a part of the gaming community should be a key goal in 2021, while new technology and expanded non-gaming partnerships can appeal to established players.”

– John Poelking, Senior Gaming Analyst

This Report looks at the following areas:

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer gaming behaviors and the gaming market.
  • Why familiar games provided comfort during an uncomfortable year.
  • What new games, services and hardware will be most important to players in 2021.
  • How brands across a variety of industries have an opportunity to reach this growing audience.

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • Key issues covered in this Report
    • Definition
    • COVID-19: market context
    • Economic and other assumptions
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Market overview
      • Figure 1: Gaming revenue, global vs US, 2016-20
    • Impact of COVID-19 on gaming
      • Figure 2: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on gaming, December 2020
    • Opportunities and challenges
    • Gaming competes with other entertainment
      • Figure 3: Changes in entertainment consumption due to COVID-19, October 2020
    • Greater gaming emphasis doesn’t necessarily bring longer marathon sessions
      • Figure 4: Gaming compared to previous year, 2019 vs 2020
    • Consoles will drive conversation in 2021
      • Figure 5: Video game devices played, October 2019 vs October 2020
    • Non-competitive social gaming is essential for gamers looking to relax
      • Figure 6: Changes in gaming motivations due to COVID-19, October 2020
    • Emphasizing community can foster a deeper connection
      • Figure 7: Attitudes toward gaming communities, October 2020
    • What’s next
  3. The Market – Key Takeaways

    • US gaming revenue continues to rise amidst downturn
    • Mobile reaches largest audience, but consoles drive participation
    • Shifts in gaming expectations could have long-term implications in the industry
    • 2021 will see expansions to product lineups and brand collaborations
  4. Market Size

    • US gaming growth outpaces the global market over the past five years
      • Figure 8: Gaming revenue, global vs US, 2016-20 (est)
    • Gaming forecasting implications
      • Figure 9: Key drivers affecting Mintel’s market forecast, 2019-25 (prepared in November 2020)
    • Impact of COVID-19 on gaming
      • Figure 10: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on gaming, December 2020
    • Lockdown
    • Re-emergence
    • Recovery
    • Learnings from the last recession
    • In-home entertainment remains a priority during economic uncertainty
      • Figure 11: Consumer spending on leisure and entertainment, by market segments, at current prices, 2000-25
    • Strong console performance in previous generations points to continued success
      • Figure 12: Global unit sales of Nintendo Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360, 2006-08
  5. Gaming Devices and Who’s Playing Them

    • Console performance drives growth in gaming audience
      • Figure 13: Video game devices played, October 2019 vs October 2020
    • Smartphone spending bolsters global revenue
      • Figure 14: Global gaming revenue, by market segment, 2019 vs 2020 (est)
    • Who’s playing every week?
    • Active mobile gamers
      • Figure 15: Active mobile gamers, by key demographics, October 2020
    • Active computer gamers
      • Figure 16: Active computer gamers, by key demographics, October 2020
    • Active console gamers
      • Figure 17: Active console gamers, by key demographics, October 2020
  6. Market Factors

    • Emphasis on entertainment helps gaming gain importance
      • Figure 18: Changes in entertainment consumption due to COVID-19, October 2020
    • Online gameplay takes on new importance in pandemic
      • Figure 19: Online gaming activities done since COVID-19, August 2020
    • An industry designed around “crunch” could unionize
    • Amazon looks to expand its position in the gaming market
    • Apple legal battles could shape gaming industry
    • Higher-priced games lead to more revenue, but could also result in defectors to free-to-play
  7. What’s Coming in 2021

    • New consoles invigorate interest in dedicated gaming devices
    • Expansion of cloud gaming capabilities
    • More integrated cross-category gaming collaborations
      • Figure 20: Bounty Twitch Commercial, June 2020
    • New gaming content platforms will try to capture emerging audience
      • Figure 21: @watchvenn Launch Instagram post, August 2020
    • Blurring lines between real world and gaming interactions
  8. Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

    • Look to breakout games to see what will be important in 2021
    • Encourage large and small communities to try new games
  9. Standout Games in 2020

    • Animal Crossing: New Horizon
    • Half-Life: Alyx
    • Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
    • The Last of Us: Part II
    • Dreams
    • Valorant
  10. Marketing Strategies

    • Bringing the gaming community together
    • Further pushes into free-to-play
    • Giving gamers a taste of something greater with free games
    • Extending gaming brands into new industries
      • Figure 22: @atarihotels Instagram post, October 2020
    • Indie games get pushed to reach smaller passionate fanbases
  11. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • Technology, entertainment value and community drive gamers
    • Casual gaming takes on greater importance during pandemic
    • Daily gaming interactions encourage short sessions of play
    • Only dedicated players appear to be interested in gaming content
    • Action genres growing but puzzle games still dominate
    • COVID-19 has strengthened a desire to balance the new with the familiar
    • Hardware garners more excitement than services
    • Gamers getting more skeptical of inauthentic brand sponsorships
    • Appealing to community and connection can open up gaming engagement
  12. Trend Drivers and Gaming

      • Figure 23: Mintel Trend Drivers and Pillars
    • Technology
    • Identity
    • Value
    • Rights
  13. Motivations for Gaming

    • Casual gaming is important for most players…
      • Figure 24: Motivations for gaming, 2019 vs 2020
    • …especially during the stresses of COVID-19
      • Figure 25: Changes in gaming motivations due to COVID-19, October 2020
    • Players gaming to compete and socialize drive engagement
      • Figure 26: Profile of competitors and social gamers, by key demographics, October 2020
      • Figure 27: Preferred gaming genres – Any rank, by competitors and social gamers, October 2020
  14. Time Spent Gaming

    • Players frequently interact with games
      • Figure 28: Frequency of gaming, 2019 vs 2020
    • Anticipation for increased gaming time is greater for 2021 than it was for 2020
      • Figure 29: Gaming compared to previous year, 2019 vs 2020
    • Most players don’t dedicate lots of time to playing
      • Figure 30: Time spent gaming in an average week, 2019 vs 2020
  15. Watching Gameplay

    • Most gamers consume some gaming content, but engagement is limited
      • Figure 31: Time spent watching gameplay in an average week, 2019 vs 2020
    • Introducing new audiences to gaming content can grow engagement
      • Figure 32: Changes in watching gameplay due to COVID-19, October 2020
    • Casual interactions can segue to content creation
      • Figure 33: Changes in contributing to gaming content due to COVID-19, October 2020
    • Gaming content has potential to reach casual newcomers
      • Figure 34: Attitudes toward watching gameplay, October 2020
  16. Preferred Gaming Genres

    • Puzzle, card games top the list of favorite genres
      • Figure 35: Preferred gaming genres, October 2020
    • Little change in genre appeal, but battle royale gains some ground
      • Figure 36: Preferred gaming genres, 2019 vs 2020
  17. Impact of COVID-19 on Gaming Habits

    • Free games take on greater importance in pandemic
      • Figure 37: Changes in gaming spending due to COVID-19, October 2020
    • New and old games alike have value beyond COVID-19
      • Figure 38: Changes in types of games played due to COVID-19, October 2020
  18. Interest in Gaming Innovations

    • New hardware is more eagerly anticipated than service offerings
      • Figure 39: Interest in gaming innovations ranked, October 2020
    • Console gamers drive interest in gaming innovations
      • Figure 40: Attitudes toward new gaming technology, by active gamer segments, October 2020
    • Interest in gaming services wanes vs 2019
      • Figure 41: Attitudes toward free games and gaming services, 2019 vs 2020
  19. Marketing in Gaming

    • Brands entering the gaming space meet a (sometimes) welcoming audience
    • Continued investment brings a more favorable response
    • Interest in key categories has decreased from 2019
      • Figure 42: Marketing in gaming, 2019 vs 2020
    • Active gamers want more variety in gaming sponsorships
      • Figure 43: Repertoire of number of industries gamers would like to see sponsor gaming, October 2020
  20. Gaming and Connection

    • Gaming can be a source of connection
      • Figure 44: Attitudes toward the appeal of video games, October 2020
    • Community keeps players engaged
      • Figure 45: Attitudes toward gaming communities, October 2020
  21. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Sales data
    • Consumer survey data
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms
  22. Appendix – The Consumer

      • Figure 46: Genres played by gamers, 2016-20

About the report

This market report provides in-depth analysis and insight supported by a range of data. At the same time, introductory and top-level content is provided to give you an overview of the issues covered.


Mintel provides a range of market information, frequently through the category level, including market size and forecasting, complete with market drivers that illustrate the forces that shape a category or market.


Mintel’s proprietary consumer research provides our analysts with the attitudinal and behavioral data used to provide valuable insight to topical issues.


Mintel provides overviews of the top brands and manufacturers, and uses consumer research to explore attitudes and reactions to brands, as well as insight into what will resonate with consumers.


Market reports provide appendices of data to support the research and insight produced. Our tables of data are easily manipulated and downloadable to support your research needs and covers factors from consumer attitudes to market forecasts.

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