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Popularity of online games continues to grow as pandemic restrictions subside, according to Ofcom

New report from Ofcom looks at who plays online games in the UK, how long people play games in the UK for, what are the most popular games in the UK and which devices people in the UK play on. 

Over half of UK adults aged over sixteen play games and play them online, according to new findings from Ofcom’s latest Online Nation report. 

The publication, which was formally launched yesterday afternoon at Ofcom’s Online Nation event, took a close look at how the country behaves online. 

As part of that, it examined how people play online especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw record figures for the UK games market in both 2020 and 2021.  

But what else did the report discover about the way we play in the UK? Let’s take a look. 

Who played online games in the UK in 2021?

Of the adults and children in the UK that play games, the majority play online. 

Sixty percent of UK adults aged 16+ and 91% of 3-15 year-olds reported playing games on console, desktop or smartphone devices both either on- or off-line. Of these players, 56% of adults aged 16+ and 66% of children aged 3-15 reported playing games online. 

Interestingly, these figures were recorded despite the fact that the fieldwork for the report took place between October and December 2021 when lockdown restrictions had eased. This suggests that players found online play an important part of their lives outside of the day to day reality of the pandemic. 

How much time did people spend playing games?

Most parents said their children were spending more time playing online games – and most children explained that playing online games made them feel less lonely. 

Overall, the amount of time players aged 13-64 spent playing declined slightly between the start and end of 2021, from an average of 7 hours 43 minutes a week in Q2 to 7 hours 33 minutes in Q4. Importantly, this means players spend little more than an average of one hour a day playing games However, this period saw an increase of 25% in time spent playing games reported by players aged 55-64.  

Ofcom also found that younger players were spending more time in online games in 2021 than before. The vast majority (85%) of parents of children aged 8-17 agreed that their children were online more. And a major driver for that seemed to be the effect this had on player wellbeing, with children aged 8-17 reporting that playing games online changes their mood positively (58%), makes them feel good about themselves (59%), and makes them feel less lonely (60%). 

Across the board, most adults reported that they were happy with the amount of time they spent playing, with only 17% saying that they spent too much time on games, suggesting players have a good handle on their playing habits across the UK. 

Smartphones are the most popular device for playing games among adults, while games consoles lead among children. 

While the UK historically has a reputation for being a console market first and foremost, the smartphone dominates playing habits with 37% of UK adults using them to play games in comparison to 30% playing on consoles.  

Importantly, console play skews towards younger demographics. Sixty percent of 16-24-year-olds use a consoles, compared to 2% of those aged 65+ with 59% of the 91% of 3-15 year olds who play games on any device opting for a console. 

Smartphone use amongst younger players remains high, 53% of 3-15 year olds using them to play. PC game play is less popular, with only 31% of children using a PC one to play games. A niche of young players also used a smart TV (10%) or  a VR headset (1%). 

Boys are also significantly more likely than girls to play games on consoles, desktops, laptops or netbooks. This suggests there is still room to diversify the UK games industry player base and emphasises the importance of industry inclusion initiatives such as #RaiseTheGame.  

Creative and building games such as Roblox and Minecraft were the most popular amongst children, whilst Wordle attained more adult daily users than Candy Crush. 

Whilst 57% of 8-11 year olds play creative and building game like Roblox and Minecraft, this figure drops to 47% among 12-15-year-olds. Nevertheless, Minecraft in particular was the most popular game among 7-16-year-olds, with 40% stating that they had played the game in the past week.