Researchscape conducted a newsmaker survey of 1,074 U.S. adults to develop an overview of game-playing. The survey was fielded from April 22 to 24, 2022. The responses were weighted to be representative of the overall U.S. population by the following variables: state and region, gender, age, race and ethnicity, household income, ideology, and registered voter status.

Videogames have long had niche appeal, but mobile games have democratized the reach of computer games. In fact, mobile games are now played by as many people as card games: 88% of U.S. adults have played a mobile game and as many have played a card game. However, mobile games are unmatched for frequency: a third of Americans play mobile games daily, compared to only 5% who play cards each day, 11% who play video games on a computer each day, and 9% who play on a console daily.

chart

For each respondent, we took their highest rate of game playing to determine the “Any game” category (for instance, a respondent who answered “Once a week or more” to mobile games but “Never” to every other game was recorded as “Once a week or more”). Two thirds of Americans (66%) play games at least once a week or more; only 8% of Americans never play games.

By the way, “other games” include games like tag, hide and seek, “the quiet game”, etc., as well as games that could have been classified elsewhere (poker, solitaire). One respondent said, “I like standing and moving for exercise. Pool, darts, archery are favorites.”

Looking only at those who play each type of game (i.e., excluding respondents who answered “Never”), 42% of mobile game players play each day, compared to 18% of PC gamers and 16% of console gamers. Tabletop games all have much lower frequency – from 6% for card players, 3% for TTRPG players (presumably playing by post or playing solo), and 1% for board gamers.

chart

The weekly cadence is well established in some tabletop communities: the weekly RPG night (17% play weekly or daily), the weekly card game (16%), or the weekly boardgame night (9%). Note that all these tabletop games can also be played online with others using virtual tabletop platforms.

We also asked people who played at least every few months which game they had played last. Hasbro dominates two categories: 40% of boardgame players had played a game of Monopoly (any edition) last, while 39% of TTRPG players had played a session of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D, any edition) last. No other category was dominated like this for a single game: 23% of card game players had played a version of Uno last, 9% of mobile players had played a version of Candy Crush last, 8% of console players had played a Call of Duty game last, and 5% of PC gamers a Sims game last.

chart

The TTRPG games listed after D&D are suspect. It turns out many respondents who were prompted with “Tabletop roleplaying game (e.g., Dungeons & Dragons)” still confused the category with that of RPG videogames. Some comments provided to later questions illustrate this:

  • “I have no interest in playing stupid games on my computer. I have more interesting things to do with my time.”
  • “Money, if there was a free trial and the download wasn’t too much it’d be good.”
  • “I’ve never heard of a fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons because I’m not interested in video games at all.”
  • “Nothing really. I guess I didn’t have no time to get around to it but as soon as I can I’ll play it I’ll probably play it as soon as I get off of this survey.”
  • “Never had an opponent that I had anything in common with.”

Additionally, only 220 respondents answered the question, so just 15 named the second-place game, Advanced Fighting Fantasy (AFF). This might have been confused with the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, as AFF hasn’t had a new edition since 2011. And while Apocalypse World is popular, it’s unlikely to have been the most recent RPG played by 7% of players.

Looking across game categories, with the prominence of games like Monopoly and D&D, it’s clear many players prefer the familiar to the new. In fact, 54% of board game players would prefer an old game to a new one (preferred by only 21%). While this might be seen as a consequence of needing to master the game rules, it’s even worse for card games, which tend to have simpler rules: 61% prefer an old game to a new one (18%). Console gamers and TTRPGs are most likely to prefer playing a game new to them, at 32% (again a possible sign of confusion of role playing games with videogames).

chart

Games are an unusual market given the primacy of established games and brands like Monopoly, Dungeons & Dragons, and Uno. Despite how widespread game playing is, new games must compete with games and franchises from decades ago to find new players. The good news is that mobile games have made players of us all.

Illustration credit: Copyright 2022 by Pixray. Permission granted for non-commercial use.