Webby 2022 Trend Report January 6, 2022

Insights From The Experts: Nicole Pike on the Future of Online Gaming

Nicole Pike, YouGov's Global Sector Head of Esports & Gaming reflects on the changing audience for online gaming industry.

The Webby 2022 Trend Report: Insights From the Experts

Nicole Pike of YouGov reflects on the changing audience for online gaming.


Our survey conducted for Way Too New, The Webby 2022 Trend Report, revealed that 60 percent of respondents play games once a week. They also reflect a growing audience: 45 percent of gamers identify as female, 31 percent were 35 to 54 years old and 29 percent were over 55 years old. While older generations are playing more than ever before, younger audiences are looking to engage with their favorite games and personalities in new ways. Nicole Pike, Global Sector Head of Esports & Gaming at YouGov reflects on the rising opportunities to engage gamers. 

Download The Webby 2022 Trend Report for a deeper breakdown of the data, and to explore what these online innovations mean for our digital future.   

How have you seen consumers’ appetite for gaming and livestream video change over the past two years?

Perhaps not surprisingly, we’ve actually seen a leveling off of gaming and gaming content viewing time as the country (and really, world) started to return to many of their pre-COVID19 behaviors and tendencies. With all things gaming reaching record highs during the pandemic, and especially young people eager to get back out and socialize in person, some of that incremental free time spent gaming is now being reallocated; that being said, gaming engagement as a whole still remains at a level higher than pre-COVID.

Can you touch on how gamer demographics have changed, and what you’ve found interesting?

Gamers continue to expand their reach among a broader spread of the general population – this is a trend that has been in effect for several years now, brought about primarily by the rise in and accessibility of mobile gaming. However, the most interesting difference lately has been less about the change in gamer demographics, and more about which gamers are playing on multiple devices. Previously, multi-device gamers (for example, a gamer who plays both on a PlayStation console and mobile phone) have been primarily young, hardcore gamers. However, both gaming consoles and PC-based gaming have expanded their reach in recent months/years, broadening both the age and gender profiles of these multi-platform players more than ever before.

For many Gen Zers, they are spending more time watching game-related content than playing games themselves.”
— Nicole Pike, Global Sector Head of Esports & Gaming YouGov

What are the biggest changes in how consumers are approaching the gaming space over the past year? 

Engagement with gaming is no longer just about playing a video game yourself. In fact, for many Gen Zers, they are actually spending more time watching gaming-related content than playing games themselves. This includes YouTube videos produced by gaming personalities, pro gamers streaming on Twitch, esports tournaments, and more. And the impact of gaming culture has expanded well beyond video games proper – gaming influencers are the most followed influencer type among Gen Z, and are in turn having an effect on what younger consumers wear, watch, listen to, and more.

30% of U.S. adults we surveyed play virtual-world games, and 40% of gamers we surveyed frequently make in-game purchases. Are there surprising changes to this demographic?  

Mobile gaming not only broadened the reach of video games among a general population. It also served as an entry point to the plethora of gaming experiences players can have, across game types and devices. And I use the word “experiences” very intentionally – to many gamers, playing virtual world games may not actually feel or seem like gaming. It’s just an entertaining extension of how their social lives have evolved, which is as much applicable to a 54 year old these days as it is a 24 year old. Similarly, with so much other online entertainment being purchased digitally, in-game purchases no longer feel like an activity limited to only the best gamers – rather, they are just another way of spending consumers’ share of entertainment wallet.

46% of U.S. adults we surveyed have purchased a product they saw during a livestream or would consider doing so. What are the biggest factors, in the data, that you have seen driving this consumer behavior? 

As previously mentioned, according to YouGov data, gaming influencers are the most common influencer type followed by Gen Z, as well as 18-34 year old males. We also see that consumers who follow gaming influencers are more likely to trust these personalities’ recommendations than followers of other influencers. This trust carries over to the products they support or represent, especially when partnerships are selected and executed properly. Additionally, the industry collectively – gaming personalities/rights holders, agencies, and brands – have continuously improved the process and quality of brand partnership activations over the past few years (mainly using data like YouGov’s to select partnerships based on consumer preferences!), and this has paid off in terms of positive consumer response and, ultimately, brand ROI.

Download The Webby 2022 Trend Report for a deeper breakdown of the data, and to explore what these online innovations mean for our digital future!

The research presented in this report is part of this year’s Way Too New thought leadership series, made possible with our sponsors YouGov, WP Engine, and Brandlive. Visit the hub to learn more about the series, and book a Webby Talks presentation!