Online Video Game Enthusiasts — Is marketing to the middle the way of the future?

The video game industry and its’ customers are changing. I grew up when consoles were starting to become a common household device, but thought of as a children’s toy. Despite being a fairly avid gamer through my teens, I never would have guessed that my friends and I, now in our late twenties and early thirties, would be spending our evenings playing Rock Band or facing off in Wii Boxing at dinner parties.

In addition to some shifts in consumer behavior, we’ve also seen changes in how games and consoles are developed and marketed to appeal to "non-traditional" or "casual" players of all ages. More intuitive and physical game play in popular titles like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, as well as the Wii Sports package seem to interest a diverse audience. With its marketing, Nintendo has been making an effort to appeal to women and seniors. Research by Compete has also found that games are among the most popular applications downloaded by iPhone and Smartphone owners.

Still, when we think of adult video game enthusiasts, we generally think of people in their twenties who grew up when video game consoles were common in US households. Are adult video game enthusiasts on the web all children of the 1980s and 90s?

Not all, but as we can see in the chart, a large proportion do fit that profile. Adults 18-34 were well represented in this group, making up 46% of video game enthusiasts online (orange bars) but only about 38% of the overall adult internet browsing population.

Not surprisingly, on the other end of the spectrum, Americans aged 55+ make up a fairly small percentage of video game enthusiasts — just 9% – even though they represent about 20% of adults online.

Marketers may want to consider expanding their consumer base to include more of those people in the middle, between 35 and 54, many of whom did not grow up when video game consoles were common in U.S. households. About a quarter of video game enthusiasts are between 35-44, and 19% are between 45 and 54.

The latter group is particularly interesting when you consider that it is more than 2.5x bigger than the 55-64 cohort and, in the next few years, will be making up more and more of the 55+ demographic. If they retain their interest in gaming as time goes on, the makeup of this segment over time will likely change to include more older Americans.

Although interest in video games may not have broken down all generational barriers yet, their appeal seems to be increasingly unrelated to consumers’ ages and the technology they grew up with, opening up exciting opportunities to create products and campaigns for a diverse, and possibly larger, customer base.

However, this diversity also suggests that marketers may have to start moving beyond demographics to a more sophisticated set of behavioral analytics to reach video game enthusiasts effectively on the web. Are they ready? Stay tuned.

Interested in learning more about how consumers shop for and use Consumer Electronics? Join us at 2 p.m. EST on February 5th for our next webinar featuring results from a joint study with the Consumer Electronics Association on older Americans and technology. Click here to register.