The Subscription Economy Has Officially Infiltrated Gaming

Half of the gaming market, including a strong majority of millennial gamers, say they pay for at least one service as industry shifts toward subscriptions
Sixty-two percent of avid gamers said they have at least one video game subscription service. (Morning Consult artwork by Kelly Rice)
November 08, 2021 at 12:01 am UTC

The State of Gaming

In the State of Gaming series, Morning Consult takes a closer look at the $200 billion global video game industry, polling gamers in the United States on their playing and spending preferences. The stories provide a snapshot of the average U.S. gamer, revealing what type of games they like to play (and how they like to play them), as well as what they think of some of the industry's biggest brands. As gaming only grows bigger, understanding gamers' habits will be critical in determining where the industry might be headed.

Other stories in the State of Gaming: Console Is Still King: Most Young and Avid Gamers Use Consoles Despite Next-Gen Scarcity | EA, Rockstar Best at Capturing Gamers’ Interest | Video Game Adaptations Have a Poor Track Record. Gamers Want More Anyway

Playing a video game used to require purchasing a physical copy of a title, but in recent years, subscription services, which offer access to a catalog of games for a recurring fee, have altered the industry. New polling suggests these services are here to stay, with most hardcore gamers saying they already use them. Subscription platforms, however, still have plenty of room to grow their customer bases. 

Sixty-two percent of avid gamers (respondents who said they play at least seven hours of video games a week) said they have at least one video game subscription service such as Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox Game Pass or Sony Corp.’s PlayStation Now. (Respondents could select more than one service.)

About Half of All Gamers, 3 in 4 Millennial Gamers Say They Use Subscription Gaming Services

Respondents were asked to select the gaming subscription services they use from a list of options, or to say that they do not have any gaming subscriptions
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Avid gamers are respondents who play at least seven hours of video games in an average week. Respondents could select all options that applied.
Poll conducted Oct. 12-15, 2021, among 1,604 U.S. adults who play video games, including 718 avid gamers, with margins of error of +/-2% and +/-4%, respectively.

What the numbers say

  • About half of all gamers (52 percent) said they subscribe to at least one subscription gaming service, including Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Now and Apple Arcade, among others. Mirroring the changes in news, entertainment and other sectors, gaming has increasingly shifted toward a subscription-based economy that allows gamers to download and play a variety of games at a fixed monthly price. Revenue from gaming subscription platforms is expected to reach $11 billion in 2025, up from an estimated $6.6 billion in 2020, according to Juniper Research.
  • Avid gamers (gamers who said they play at least seven hours per week) are even more into subscription services as nearly two-thirds (62 percent) said they use at least one. Many services reward frequent users with regular discounts, early access to games that have not yet been released to the general public and other perks.
  • A slightly higher share of console gamers (74 percent) reported using at least one subscription service than did PC gamers. Some consoles require that users sign up for affiliated subscription services in order to play multiplayer games online. Microsoft Corp. said last year that 70 percent of its Xbox Series X and S consoles are connected to an Xbox Game Pass account and that those subscribers spend 20 percent more time playing games than nonsubscribers do.
  • Approximately half of gamers (48 percent) said they do not have a membership with a subscription service, according to the survey, which suggests services still have plenty of room to grow — especially among older gamers. While 75 percent of millennial gamers and 62 percent of Gen Z gamers subscribe to at least one service, half of Gen Xers (49 percent) and only 15 percent of baby boomer gamers pay for one.

The poll was conducted Oct. 12-15, 2021, among 1,604 U.S. adults who say they play video games, including 718 avid gamers, with margins of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points and 4 points, respectively.

A headshot photograph of Wesley Case
Wesley Case
Research Editor

Wesley Case is a research editor on the Industry Intelligence team, focusing on coverage of entertainment, brands and sports. Prior to joining Morning Consult, he was an editor at The Athletic and a features reporter and critic at The Baltimore Sun. Wesley graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in English and a concentration in journalism.

A headshot photograph of Adam Epstein
Adam Epstein
Senior Editor

Adam Epstein previously worked at Morning Consult as a senior editor of brands, sports and entertainment.

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