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Driven by technological advancements, artistic creativity, and new tools of engagement, the video game industry and its beloved communities are evolving right before our eyes. Every year, Nielsen Games conducts an extensive analysis of the industry, granting us insight into how the devices and players are changing and what the future may look like if these trends continue. Take a look at 11 highlights from the report that showcase how Americans consume and feel about gaming in 2017.

1. Console is the most preferred gaming platform followed by PC and mobile devices.
For U.S. gamers, 47% regard consoles as their favorite video game medium, 27% prefer playing on computer, and a close 26% favor smartphones or tablets as their platform of choice.
Playstation 4
2. Sony’s PlayStation 4 wins the console war.
The PlayStation 4 is the most recognized gaming device among the general population, which accounts for both gamers and non-gamers. As you might expect, the awareness gap between the top two consoles – the PS4 and Xbox One – is very close among video game players, only varying by 5%. For non-gamers however, the PlayStation 4 leads the pack in familiarity by 11%.

Interestingly, despite the Nintendo Switch’s record-breaking sales, the console far less known among all populations than the PS4 and XONE; comparable in popularity to the Sony PlayStation 4 Pro.

3. Console gamers go physical, PC players go digital.
After decades of dependency on cartridges, optical discs, and memory cards, it’s no surprise that console gamers still prefer physical software over digital. Many factors contribute to this preference. Most notably, consoles such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have limited storage space compared to most gaming PCs – even with the newer 1 TB and 2 TB models.

For the self-proclaimed PC master race, digital gaming is king. Driven by the popularity of the Steam platform, the cost-effectiveness of digital game purchases, and ease of downloading titles (often with a hardwired connection), the PC player’s preference for digital over physical is a sensible one.

4. Fans of digital software spend more time playing than physical gamers.
Both console and PC gamers who prefer digital games spend more leisure time per week gaming than their disc-wielding, cartridge-handling counterparts. For computer players, the digitally-inclined spend 8.1 hours per week playing video games versus 5.5 hours from physical software aficionados. The same trend can be found in the console arena where digital players dedicate 7.2 hours to game time compared to physical gamers’ 6.1 hours.

5. PC gamers with a preference for physical games are the biggest spenders.
Continuing the evaluation of software preference, the data suggests that physical PC gamers spend the most on video games, averaging $20.00 per month; followed by digital console gamers at $17.50, physical console gamers at $13.60, and lastly, digital PC players at $12.90 per month.

6. Approximately half of console use is spent on non-gaming activities.
Modern video game consoles are much more than pure gaming machines. The little technological marvel in your living room is a fully-fledged multimedia device, granting users the ability to consume and create content in novel ways.

For both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One users, about half of the time spent with their console is on non-gaming activities such as streaming videos and watching DVDs or downloaded content. Wii U players spend 40% of their time on alternative activities, with 60% attributed to gaming offline and online.

7. Genre, graphics, and story are the leading reasons why people buy video games.
When making a game purchasing decision, the game’s genre, graphical fidelity, and storyline are the top three influential factors that determine whether a title will come home with you or sit on the store shelf.

And while people are spending more time playing video games overall, 38% of gamers are spending less than last year thanks to increased engagement and game longevity through DLC and updates, the prevalence of free-to-play games and demos, and players choosing to wait for game discounts.
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8. Most gaming-related video is consumed via YouTube. ESPN is now the third most popular medium to consume gaming content.
Despite the advent of YouTube’s dedicated gaming platform, YouTube Gaming, the vast majority (70%) of video game-related content is still consumed on their main platform. Last year, Gamespot held the second most popular position, followed by IGN, Twitch, and Steam. In 2017, Twitch is sitting pretty at number two followed by a new contender, ESPN.

Twitch is largely considered the fan favorite medium for watching live streams, while social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are proving to be increasingly prominent tools of player engagement. Fans wishing to connect with specific entities – a developer, publisher, or public figure – often do so through YouTube.

9. eSports is huge, and growing.
Thanks to greater media attention and a number of new, lofty partnerships between gaming companies and well-known sports leagues, eSports continues to grow in 2017. The latest data paints the average eSports fan as a Millennial-aged male with a household income of nearly $65,000, who plays video games regularly.

Newbies to eSports fandom are drawn in by friends and family, while seasoned enthusiasts are more influenced by interest in a game.

10. Staying up-to-date with gaming news is important for gamers.
In general, video game players are very interested in relevancy. 73% said keeping up with gaming news and trends is very important to them followed by 67% who stated playing the most popular games and being social are also important aspects of gaming. On the tail end, gamers find that owning the newest systems/hardware and being able to purchase in-game content are vital, but to a slightly lesser degree.
Woman using virtual reality headset at night with city lights in background
11. Familiarity with Virtual and Augmented Reality has increased drastically.
Awareness of VR and AR devices has increased from 37% in 2016 to 63% in 2017 among gamers, and the Samsung VR is the most recognized device. While such technology is becoming more visible in the mainstream, the high price point continues to be a hurdle for many. Those intending to join the VR/AR revolution tend to be fueled by a fondness for new technology, a popular sentiment within the gaming community. So it’s no surprise that the video game industry is leading the charge in development of new virtual and augmented reality applications.

What are your impressions of the current gaming trends shaping 2017? Do any of the points surprise you, or do they align with what you’d expect? View the 2017 Nielsen Games 360 report in its entirety here.

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  • The PlayStation 4 is the most recognized gaming device among the general population, which accounts for both gamers and non-gamers. As you might expect, the awareness gap between the top two consoles – the PS4 and Xbox One – is very close among video game players, only varying by 5%. For non-gamers however, the PlayStation 4 leads the pack in familiarity by 11%.