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The gaming audience continues to expand. In fact, two-thirds (66%) of Americans ages 13 and older self-identify as gamers, up from 58% in 2013, according to a Nielsen study [download page]. Gamers are spending an average of 11% of their leisure time with video games this year, a figure that has remained largely consistently over the past few years.

Gamers dedicate the largest shares of their leisure time to TV and movies (23%) and the internet (23%), per the report, but are spending a greater proportion (17%) of their time this year engaging in social activities with family and friends. This, Nielsen says, points to “a potential for content creators to further engage gamers through social or group play experiences.”

The Console Remains the Preferred Platform

Among gamers ages 13 and older (those who play on consoles, PCs and/or mobile devices) the gaming console is the preferred platform for almost half (49%), up slightly from 47% last year. An earlier report from Nielsen revealed that there are almost 162 million people in US TV households who own video game consoles with the ability to watch TV, representing about half of the US population.

Meanwhile, mobile devices (smartphones or tablets) are the preferred platforms for 30% of gamers this year, overtaking computers (21%), which had edged them last year.

Indeed, 41% of the general population ages 13 and older are mobile/tablet game players, according to the report. Interestingly enough, though, there appears to be some platform consolidation.

This year almost half (48%) of gamers say that they only play on one device type, up from 42% in 2016. Correspondingly, fewer this year (13%) than in 2016 (18%) say they play games on three device types.

That is also reflected in console gamers’ preferences: this year 60% of console gamers also game on a mobile or tablet, down from 66% in 2016. Nevertheless, the 60% playing on mobile this year represents a considerable increase from 46% in 2013, suggesting “sustained health in the mobile-gaming ecosystem,” per the analysts.

Not surprisingly, console gamers prefer physical games over digital games by a 2:1 margin, while the opposite is true for PC gamers. Weekly gaming hours, though, are higher among those who prefer digital games, regardless of their primary gaming platform.

Consoles Are Used for More Than Just Gaming; eSports Audience Grows

As a TV-connected device, consoles are often used for video viewing as opposed to just game playing. In fact, as Nielsen’s report details, 60% of 7th-generation console owners’ hours are spent with non-gaming activities, as are 55% of 8th-generation console owners’ hours.

Most of that time is allocated to video. For example, PS3 owners dedicate 53% of their weekly console hours to watching video-on-demand/streaming services (25%), DVDs/Blu-rays (15%) and downloaded movies and TV shows (13%). PS4/PS4 Pro owners as well as Xbox 360 owners also each spend a combined 45% of their console time with those video activities.

Gamers are also watching related content online, with YouTube a particularly popular platform: 69% of gamers who have watched gaming-related videos typically go to YouTube to watch such content.

That dovetails with a greater reach for eSports. Among US eSports fans ages 13-40, fully 29% have begun watching within the past year, indicating a broadening audience. The eSports audience tends to be young and male: three-quarters of eSports viewers ages 13-40 are male, and three-quarters are ages 18-34. However, these demographic variances may be flattening as the audience broadens: Nielsen notes that newer fans are less likely to skew male and are also less likely to be ages 18-34.

Last year, a report from IHS revealed that total eSports video hours consumed worldwide grew by 19% year-over-year in 2016. A new report from Juniper Research, meanwhile, forecasts the number of unique viewers of eSports to reach 858 million in 2022, representing a 36% jump from 630 million this year and translating to one-tenth of the global population.

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