IAB games research shows games dominate

Image by Jonathan McIntosh on Flickr CC licence (crop made) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

More women than men play games in the UK

IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) have partnered with the independent research agency Populus to conduct a study on games in the UK called “Gaming Revolution”. The study, in addition to player demographics, was specifically looking at in-game advertising. They surveyed a representative sample of 3,000 adults (16-74) and 1,000 eight to 15 year olds online, complementing the survey with a panel about their play habits over the last six months. They also did interviews with players (22) and field experts (4), one of which was with our very own CEO Dr Jo Twist.

The key findings make for interesting reading – and given this was a large sample, with a mixed methodology, over a recent and decent period of time, the results seem to tally with other similar reports. It shows that games are really popular in the UK: more than two thirds of the population aged eight to 74 play games (33.5m, 69%). Interestingly, 99% of eight to 15 year olds play, which means 5.9 million – so we have more young people playing games in the UK than Denmark’s entire population.

The report is not called gaming revolution for nothing, as it states that currently there are more women than men playing games (52% versus 48%). This is driven by 25-44 year old women who play free puzzle and trivia apps on their smartphones or tablets. This trend is in line with a recent bit of research from the ESA in the USA, although there it is 52% males. Six in 10 games acquired in the last 6 months were “free”. This shows how much of a driver into new, more diverse audiences this kind of business model has been, especially on smartphones.

Also perhaps more of a surprise is that there are more 45-74 year old playing games (27%) than eight to 15 year olds (16%), although the age bracket is different, it still is interesting to see this. We have known for some time that games are not just played by teenagers in their bedrooms – they have grown and they still enjoy playing games for all sorts of reasons, like entertainment and for a challenge, as part of their daily media habits.

Amongst players, children aged eight to 15 spend the most time playing: 20 hours on average per week. The number of hours decreases as age increases, as one would expect because life has a way of getting in the way, but on average across all those who play games, an impressive 14 hours per week is spent playing, very close to two standard UK working days. If we look at the whole population, be they players or not, on average we spend as many hours playing games as we do using social media (6 hours), just below listening to music (7 hours).

In terms of types of platforms and formats games are played on (apps, boxed physical or online), apps are the most popular with 55% of the whole population playing them: that means there’s a 50% chance that the person sitting next to you plays on their smartphone or tablet on the move. The research shows that 40% of the whole population buys and plays physical discs while 35% plays digital downloads. Linked to app popularity, smartphones are the most popular device to play on, with one in two people (54%) of the whole population playing on them.

Looking at genres, trivia/word/puzzle games are the most popular (33% of all the UK population plays them), followed by action/adventure shooters (18%) and role playing/strategy (10%).

The IAB also wanted to find out what players think of advertising and games. The research found out that six in 10 players are happy to see ads in games if it makes them free, and that they are ready to watch twice the number of ads in a free game than in a paid-for one. Eight in 10 players would rather download a free game with advertising than pay for an ad-free version. Additionally, a quarter (24%) think ads even help to make games more realistic and immersive, particularly games that are set in a contemporary context. The conclusion is that in-game ads have to succeed in getting the balance right: they can enhance the experience via additional content or by adding realism but they must not interrupt or be irrelevant to the game (like a sports car ad in a medieval game for example).

You can find IAB’s article on their interesting research here

If you would like to see the research in detail, please talk to me.