Mobile Tipping Point: 70% in U.S. Now Play Video Games on Smartphones, Leading Mobile to Overtake PC and Console as Largest Market Segment

By February 28, 2019Our Ideas

In January 2019, Altman Vilandrie & Company conducted a survey of four major countries (U.S., China, Japan and U.K.) to determine consumer preferences and trends in gaming. The findings, some of which are highlighted below, show an industry quickly shifting toward Mobile gaming, which has made gaming more accessible and has changed the way the industry develops and monetizes games. Still, the survey found that traditional gaming platforms (Console and PC) are resilient, and gamers are open to trying new platforms and formats.

Fast facts:

  • 70% in U.S. now play videogames on their smartphones
  • Women (79%), men (83%) now play video games at nearly same rate
  • 33% of women are “mobile only” compared to 15% of men
  • 83% of gamers play on Mobile vs. 54% each for Console and PC
  • Mobile revenues projected to eclipse joint Console and PC revenues in 2019
  • 62% of gamers pay for a game-related subscription service
  • 89% of gamers make in-game purchases

Continued growth has made mobile gaming is now the dominant driver in the global gaming market, reaching a tipping point at which it generates more revenue than Console and PC combined and accounts for the majority of all growth. Altman Vilandrie & Company’s analysis, which included a consumer survey of gaming habits in the U.S., U.K., China, and Japan, found that 70% of U.S. respondents – and 66% overall – play video games on their smartphones, ushering in a new era of game accessibility and purchasing habits.

Mobile is the most popular gaming platform

The overall video game market size, projected as $167 billion for 2019[i], is expected to grow 5% annually from 2018 to 2022, almost entirely driven by growth in mobile gaming (10% annually). Mobile is the most-used platform in gaming, with 83% of all gamers stating that they play on their smartphone or tablet, versus 54% each for Console and PC. While gamers from most countries had similar platform preferences, the survey found that Chinese gamers gravitated toward PCs at a much higher level.

The growing popularity of Mobile has shifted the balance of power among gaming platforms; Consoles and PCs, once dominant in the gaming market, have shown only modest growth recently and will be eclipsed by Mobile revenues in 2019 ($80B Console & PC v. $86B Mobile)[ii]. Despite Nintendo’s resurgence with the Switch, console shipments still lag historical highs and the overall installed base for consoles is shrinking.

However, even as the market shifts to Mobile, less than 5% of Console and PC gamers are shifting their usage to mobile. The survey data indicates that while Mobile is growing, it has not yet started to cannibalize traditional gaming platforms.

Gamers waiting on AR/VR

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality hasn’t fully arrived as a gaming platform, with only 44% of gamers (36% excluding China) having played AR/VR games. However, 67% stated (56% excluding China) that they would play games on an AR/VR device in the future. The main impediments to adoption are the still-high prices of AR/VR devices and the early state of the technology.

 Mobile and F2P expand gaming accessibility, player base

Games that are Free-to-Play (F2P), or requiring no upfront charge, are now very popular, and were cited by players as the most common reason to try a new game. The F2P model continues to gain revenue market share with an estimated 80% of digital revenue for 2018[iii].  While F2P drives players to try games, the survey found that new content (e.g., new characters, new maps, DLC) is the most cited reason for continued engagement with a game.

Altman Vilandrie & Company also discovered that Mobile has virtually closed the gaming gender gap. Women now play games at similar rates to men (79% for women v. 83% for men), buoyed by a strong preference for Mobile (33% of women gamers are “mobile-only” compared to 15% for men). At the same time, mobile preferences vary significantly by geography and gender, with women from most countries having different preferences than men of the same nationality. By contrast, Chinese gamers of both genders shared similar preferences.


And, while F2P is the primary driver of adoption, players have expressed a strong willingness to pay for good games: 77% of mobile gamers say they have paid or would pay for a mobile game.

Rise of new content and revenue models

Players are increasingly embracing game-related video content and subscription services, introducing added opportunities for user adoption, retention, engagement, and monetization:

  • 67% of video game players watch game-related content (e.g., eSports, Twitch)
  • 62% of gamers pay for a game-related subscription service (e.g., PlayStation Now; Twitch Prime)
  • 89% of gamers make in-game purchases (e.g. cosmetic, performance, or content-related upgrades)

One key finding was the benefit of affiliated media on gameplay: 81% of players that watch game-related content say that doing so makes them more likely to play that game; similarly, gamers that watch eSports play 2.1 hours more of the game that they watch each week.

Gamers increasingly playing online and “on-the-go”

For decades, game publishers have worked to “win the living room.” Today’s gamers are leaving the living room both physically and virtually: 60% of Mobile gamers play “on-the-go” while commuting or traveling; at the same time, gamers are increasingly playing, watching, and buying games online.

Supporting this notion, 72% of gamers stated that they would be willing to play games provided by a non-traditional provider (e.g., cable company, Google).

This shift has been enabled by improvements to internet infrastructure, from stronger mobile networks to faster wireline bandwidth to better cloud-based delivery models; however, there hasn’t been a significant amount of direct monetization from the telecom players.  Cloud and internet service, for instance, providers have only dipped their toes into this new source of demand.


Altman Vilandrie & Company fielded the online survey in January 2019 to more than 2,200 respondents (from U.S., U.K., China, and Japan) provided by Dynata.

[i] Sources: IDC, NewZoo, AV&Co. Research & Analysis
[ii] Sources: IDC, NewZoo, AV&Co. Research & Analysis
[iii] Source: SuperData (A Nielsen Company), January 2019