Nearly everyone who plays video games has had to fight off the perception that gamers are just loser loners who set up in their parents’ basements. But while armchair debaters have long pointed out that just isn’t the case — citing the rise of social gaming, mobile gaming, the fact that the U.S. spent $13.5 billion on gaming in 2013 — there hasn’t been a lot of hard data on hand.
Admittedly, citing data may not help fight the perception that gamers are nerds. But the results of a new study commissioned by the video game streaming network Twitch and conducted by noted social researcher Neil Howe (aka the man credited with coining the term “millenial”) offer an entirely new picture of the gaming community. The study suggests gamers actually tend to be more social, more successful and more educated than the non-gaming population.
The study, released last week by Howe’s LifeCourse Associates consulting firm, surveyed more than 1,000 people via the Internet about their gaming habits and then pulled some basic demographic information. For purposes of this study, a “gamer” was defined as anyone who has played a game on a digital device in the past 60 days. About 63 percent of those surveyed fit that definition.
Twitch decided to commission the study because the community of gamers on its popular streaming site — the site gets about 45 million unique hits per month — was clearly not at all reflective of that old gamer stereotype, said Matt DiPietro, the company’s vice president of marketing.
“There’s this perception that (the community) comprises loners and rejects ... and that couldn’t be more wrong,” he said. “We didn’t go in with an idea of what the data would show, but we knew what we thought the data would show, and it showed what we knew to be true.”
According to a copy of the study provided to The Washington Post, gamers are more likely to be living with other people such as family, friends or significant others, and are more likely to agree with the statement, “My friends are the most important thing in my life.” About 57 percent of gamers said they agree with that statement, as compared to 35 percent of nongamers.
The study also found that gamers are split more evenly by gender than they have been in the past, with 52 percent of gamers surveyed identifying as male and 48 percent identifying as female. A 2004 survey from the Entertainment Software Association estimated that 40 percent of gamers were female.
Gamers also are slightly more likely to be employed full-time — 42 percent for gamers, versus 39 percent for non-gamers — which undoubtedly comes in handy when trying to figure out how to financially support a gaming hobby.
Hard to reach
The study also looked into gamers’ media habits, showing that they spend a lot of time using their gadgets and also tend to spend a lot time with media. But, they’re also more likely to be cord-cutters who watch video through services such as Netflix or Hulu — posing a problem to those who want to market to them.
“They’re a particularly valuable group of people,” DiPietro said. “But they’re also particularly difficult to reach via traditional channels.”
Cracking the code on how to target gamers specifically is, in part, what’s made Twitch so popular. The service now hosts about one million livestreams of games per month.
Sandvine estimates that Twitch accounts for 1.35 percent of all U.S. peak Internet traffic, beating HBO Go while the Wall Street Journal, citing DeepField, put ranked Twitch behind only Apple, Google and Netflix.
That success has also made the service potentially attractive to outside buyers. Reports surfaced last month that Google’s YouTube service was eyeing the service for a potential $1 billion deal. DiPietro declined to comment on the rumors.