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More than 9 million Americans have joined the ranks of gamers since 2019, according to a new report from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). The United States now boasts 164 million gamers — 73% of the population between ages 13 and 64 plays at least one hour a week — and they represent a larger, more diverse market than before.

Gamers’ interests are spread broadly across multiple markets: Console game, PC games, and mobile games. They are interested in new technology such as VR and are investing in new services such as cloud gaming. According to the gamers the CTA surveyed, the vast majority of them play for escapism, to achieve goals or to enjoy competition.

The CTA surveyed 2000 U.S. gamers between the ages of 13-64 earlier this year for its findings. Each qualified respondent reported playing a game at least one hour within the previous three months.

Gaming’s present

One major finding from the report was that player engagement has gone up. Gamers now average 24 hours weekly, up from 16 hours in 2019. However, if you look at the report, the numbers are fairly evenly distributed. About 25% of gamers (or 40.9 million people) are “hardcore gamers,” meaning they play around 37 hours or more a week. 41% (67.3 million) are “casual gamers” who average around 13 hours. “Core gamers,” who average 29 weekly hours, fall in the middle at 34% (55.6 million).

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Mobile is the primary gaming medium of choice, with consoles and then PCs following. The hardcore/core/casual divide is most easily seen in the gaming habits, as both hardcore and core gamers prefer “immersive action-packed games.” Mobile gamers also preferred playing alone, as opposed to console and PC players.

One common thread amongst all gamers was that they prized “ease of gameplay” and the ability to stream digital media on their devices. Certain demographics cared about niche concerns — for example, mobile gamers were more concerned with device portability than the rest. But almost no gamers seemed satisfied with cloud gaming support, with it getting the lowest satisfaction scores across console (30%), PC (17%) and mobile (11%). Also, almost every gamer surveyed expressed satisfaction with their gaming device, be it a custom PC (89%) or a tablet (82%).

Gaming’s future

Among the findings in the report are predictions for the future. Gamers surveyed have invested heavily in subscription services — 43% have paid for a subscription service, and 30% subscribe to a cloud gaming service. Gamers also expressed interest in technology like VR, with both hardcore gamers and teenagers (two groups not mutually exclusive) wanting to play more VR games within the next five years.

While the majority of those surveyed said they thought gaming would be more social, the number who thought so was down from 2019. This could be because a portion of those gamers believe gaming has become quite social enough. Those who do see it becoming more social apparently point to games becoming “more virtual.”

However, a not-insignificant percentage who saw games becoming more social believed this would come about because “more people will be playing games to relax/escape from the real world.” It’s also worth pointing out that 82% of the players surveyed said they play to “escape” — or, in more granular terms, either to relieve stress or boredom or to escape reality.

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