The commonly-held default assumption that the ‘average’ gamer is a young male has been definitively shattered. This old and tired stereotype does not begin to do justice to the diversity and shifting make-up of the gaming industry.
The status quo has changed and our perceptions must evolve with it. The sector is now being enjoyed and shaped by demographics that were never associated with gaming – not, at least, to the extent we are seeing now. Today, thanks to its meteoric rise and broad appeal, the sector is managing to convert and win over an ever-increasing and ever more diverse base of fans, subscribers and gamers.
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The sector is immensely dynamic and malleable. Aided by rapid advances in technology – and the ways in which information is consumed and relayed – the industry has been able to enrich and augment its offering. This has been associated not only with an exponential increase in the number of games that are on offer, across more devices, but also the degree of their sophistication and quality.
This expansion has broadened the sector’s appeal and hugely diversified its pool of users. Eager to seize on the opportunity, businesses have also been forced to stop thinking in ‘young male’ terms, instead designing games that cater to the tastes of other age, gender and background categories. Therefore, as the industry has grown in size, so too has its ability to create content that resonates more broadly. This has set in motion a virtuous growth cycle, which means that the industry is only set to become more diverse and inclusive.
This is dictated not only by commercial incentives but also by social realities. Diversity, in other words, is not only a means to enable market growth – it is also a social norm and value, one held dear by some of the sector’s core demographics, namely Gen Zers and millennials.
Businesses that ignore this risk losing their support and legitimacy. Those that embrace it, and demonstrate a genuine commitment to the ways in which games are designed and marketed, are more likely to gain ground. This is especially true of vulnerable groups including, for example, users with disabilities.
Historically this has not been a demographic that gaming businesses prioritised; indeed, in large part, this may have also been down to the fact that the technology wasn’t advanced enough to enable it. However, this has now changed and it is a demographic to be reckoned with.
In the US alone, there are around 46 million gamers with disabilities, according to recent statistics. It is clear that the sector has taken great strides in making its offering more accessible but, of course, this will evolve even more over time.
Another demographic that has recently demonstrated an increased and sustained interest in gaming includes the 45-54 age group. In the not-so-distant past, a person who fell into this category would have mostly been expected to merely regulate or observe their children’s interest in gaming.
However, this has changed entirely; according to recent statistics, 2020 saw a 60% growth in gaming among people in this age group. This was accompanied by an increase in spending to the tune of 76% associated with gaming.
Therefore, we can no longer speak of the ‘average’ gamer. Attaching a ‘young male’ label to our perceptions does not capture the complexity and dynamism of the sector, which is changing rapidly and broadening its appeal to more demographics.
Marketing agency 9 Pandas, led by its founder Sergey Karshkov, takes a keen interest in the shifting dynamics and norms that characterise the sector, using its expertise and insights to advise businesses in the industry looking to attract those pursuing a career in gaming.