40% of US gamers say they’ve been playing video games more during the COVID-19 pandemic

November 27, 2020, 3:35 PM GMT+0

With the anticipated releases of major new consoles and titles launching, 2020 was always meant be an important year within the gaming and esports industries; the COVID-19 pandemic has made it pivotal. US player numbers surged following the onset of the pandemic, suggesting that almost one in ten American adults played Minecraft in April over the previous month. YouGov’s Gaming and Esports: The Next Generation whitepaper explores this enthusiasm and the state of an industry that’s thriving amidst global crisis and uncertainty.

The research includes an analysis of global video games and esports landscape across 24 markets examining the market against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the arrival of next-gen consoles, the international esports scene and game streaming.

A deep dive into the US gaming and esports industry reveals the key findings below:

  • Two in five US gamers (40%) say they’ve been playing video games more on any device during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to last year
  • 59% of Americans are mobile gamers or those who play on a smartphone or tablet
  • Nearly half (48%) are aware of streaming platforms such as Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming
  • One in four Americans who are considered hardcore gamers today are women
  • 22% of Americans believe the gaming industry will return stronger and more relevant than ever before after COVID-19
  • Seven in 10 (71%) US adults say they play games on PC, console, or mobile

Despite the stereotype, hardcore gamers have wide interests outside of their consoles and PCs. In fact, just one in three (34%) say they are not interested in any sports versus half (49%) of the US public. The most popular sports among US hardcore gamers are the NBA (24% compared to 11% of US adults) and the NFL (23% vs. 21%)

Advertising to hardcore gamers in the US

Advertising through online channels will still be a primary avenue of reaching hardcore gamers, as they prefer this kind of engagement to any other – but it may also be worth exploring other mediums. Though not as technologically advanced, direct mail (the second most favored channel) can still be a powerful tool: almost three in ten hardcore gamers like it, and ad-blockers cannot stop it.


Consumers in East Asia tend to have the greatest familiarity with esports. At least seven in ten people in China (72%), Taiwan (71%) and Hong Kong (70%) can correctly define what it is.

Roughly a third of Americans can define esports correctly, and even among those who play games on any device, esports familiarity sits at fewer a fewer than two in five (38%).

The relative familiarity with esports in the US suggests it has a foothold on the public consciousness but esports brands could do more to improve awareness and engagement. Within the last 12 months, just 8% of Americans said they engaged in esports activities such as attending a live stream event or consuming esports content.

YouGov is primed to play an important role in demystifying this industry for brands through data, which is why our first large-scale, global whitepaper on esports and gaming comes at the perfect time. Our breadth and depth of global profiling data is industry-leading, and something esports sponsors and rights holders should be leveraging to understand who their properties, streams, and activations are reaching, and why those consumers matter moving into 2021 and beyond”

YouGov’s Gaming and Esports: The Next Generation whitepaper also looks at purchase consideration for the next generation of PlayStation and Xbox consoles. Sony’s PlayStation 5 emerges as the popular choice among gamers worldwide, showing an ability to appeal to even last generation’s Xbox owners.To download the whitepaper for free, please click here

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