How the rise of social gaming has impacted consumers’ gaming and spending habits

Illustration of a gaming metaverse.

As gaming expands its hold on entertainment and popular culture, the way that gamers engage with the medium is becoming more inherently social — and gamers’ spending habits are evolving as a result.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of consumers to hunker down at home, leading to an explosion of gaming activity between 2020 and 2022. As the world reopened last year, these newly minted gamers re-emerged, but retained their interest in connecting with others via games, both virtually and physically. 

The marketing data firm AnalyticsIQ describes social gaming as the tendency to meet someone in real life after first meeting them through video game interactions. These days, more people than ever make new friends through gaming environments and experiences.

To learn more about how the rise of social gaming has impacted consumers’ gaming and spending activities, Digiday worked with AnalyticsIQ to pull exclusive data from its upcoming Social Gamers Research Report, which polled roughly 8,500 self-identified social gamers about their motivations for gaming and spending money on games.

Who are social gamers?

Social gaming is very much a generational pursuit, as shown by the demographic data above. Millennials and members of Gen Z are much more likely than older gamers to develop real-life friendships via games. This means social gaming provides a window into how how gaming activity will take shape in the future. As more members of Gen Z age into brands’ coveted 18-34 demographic, the majority of them will be social gamers, so it is imperative for marketers to understand how this category of gamer thinks.

“Consumers are more than just the numbers of their demographics and their purchase behavior,” said Travis Meeks, vp of marketing at AnalyticsIQ. “These are the folks that have turned online friends into real-life friends, so maybe looking into live events, or more in-person experiences, is another way to reach them.”

Social gamers are relatively likely to play subscription-based games

Free-to-play and live-service games are on the rise, and social gamers account for a significant part of that shift. 62 percent of social gamers told AnalyticsIQ that they were likely to play subscription-based games, higher than the roughly 50 percent of gamers who told YouGov that they were interested in this category last year. This makes sense: These days, the most inherently social and massively multiplayer games, including titles like “Fortnite” and “Among Us,” are free-to-play to encourage more players to join in. As social gaming continues to rise, these free-to-play, massively multiplayer games will reap the benefits.

“In a multiplayer game, you are the content — the players are the content,” said Ivan Trancik, CEO of the gaming growth company SuperScale. “If you lose players, this is usually when you start turning off the servers.”

Social gamers game much more frequently than non-social gamers

Data from AnalyticsIQ’s report shows that social gamers are much more likely to play on a daily basis than non-social gamers. 59 percent of social gamers play daily, compared to 43 percent of non-social gamers. The data suggests that social interaction plays a key role in driving the most passionate gamers to fire up their PCs or consoles — which is relevant data for any game developer looking to capture the attention of increasingly fickle entertainment consumers.

Now and in the future, game developers that include more opportunities for genuine social interaction in their titles will be rewarded by higher engagement — a crucial metric as subscriptions and in-game purchases become developers’ primary revenue streams.

Social gamers are very open to new streaming and non-traditional TV services

80 percent of social gamers are in the market to purchases non-traditional TV services, and over 64 percent are highly likely to subscribe to new streaming services. Additionally, AnalyticsIQ’s report found that social gamers are 300 percent more likely to switch streaming services in the next 12 months than the average consumer. Social gamers are relatively fickle consumers, but they represent a ripe opportunity for streaming services looking to expand their user bases.

As gaming becomes a central battleground of the streaming wars and platforms such as Netflix step up their internal game development divisions, the streamers that encourage social interaction through their gaming content could be the ones best-positioned to secure the loyalty of the expanding social gaming demographic.

“These social butterflies are absolutely more willing to meet new people, more open to a conversation with someone else, more open to try new things,” Meeks said.

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