FYI: Video Game Statistics by the Entertainment Software Association

Here are some recent statistics (albeit gathered by the Entertainment Software Association) from the industry itself.  It might be interesting to look at the things that are not so surprising and the things a general audience might find interesting.  It is also important to recognize that this is the industry presenting data about itself (particularly on the section about video game violence), but it does shed some light about who plays, buys, uses video games and what they play, buy, and use.


Industry Facts

America’s entertainment software industry creates a wide array of computer and video games to meet the demands and tastes of audiences as diverse as our nation’s population. Today’s gamers include millions of Americans of all ages and backgrounds.  In fact, more than two-thirds of all American households play games. This vast audience is fueling the growth of this multi-billion dollar industry and bringing jobs to communities across the nation.  Below is a list of the top 10 entertainment software industry facts:

  1. U.S. computer and video game software sales grew 22.9 percent in 2008 to $11.7 billion – more than quadrupling industry software sales since 1996.
  2. Sixty-eight percent of American households play computer or video games.
  3. The average game player is 35 years old and has been playing games for 12 years.
  4. The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 39 years old.
  5. Forty percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (34 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent).
  6. In 2009, 25 percent of Americans over the age of 50 play video games, an increase from nine percent in 1999.
  7. Thirty-seven percent of heads of households play games on a wireless device, such as a cell phone or PDA, up from 20 percent in 2002.
  8. Eighty-four percent of all games sold in 2008 were rated “E” for Everyone, “T” for Teen, or “E10+” for Everyone 10+.  For more information on game ratings, please see
  9. Ninety-two percent of game players under the age of 18 report that their parents are present when they purchase or rent games.
  10. Sixty-three percent of parents believe games are a positive part of their children’s lives.

Sales & Genre Data

According to data compiled by the NPD Group, a global market research company, and released by the ESA in January 2009, computer and video game companies posted records sales in 2008.  The industry sold 297.6 million units, leading to an astounding $11.7 billion in revenue.  Of these sales:

  • Game console software sales totaled $8.9 billion with 189.0 million units sold;
  • Computer games sales were $701.4 million with 29.1 million units sold; and,
  • There was a record $2.1 billion in portable software sales with 79.5 million units sold.

The most popular game genre once again was “Family Entertainment,” which accounted for 19 percent of all games sold in 2008, up from 9.1 percent in 2006.   In addition, of the games sold in 2008, 57 percent were rated “Everyone (E)” or “Everyone 10+ (E10+).”  The NPD Group’s data also indicates that only 16 percent of games sold last year were rated “Mature (M).”

Games & Violence

Facts, common sense and numerous studies all debunk the myth that there is a link between computer and video games and violence.  Blaming video games for violence in the real world is no more productive than blaming the news media for bringing crimes of violence into our homes night after night.  Having someone or something to blame is convenient, especially after an incident of terrible and unexplainable violence.  But to do so is simplistic, and more importantly, it’s wrong.

Credible real-world evidence demonstrates the fallacy of linking games and violence:

  • Violent crime, particularly among the young, has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s.  During the same period of time, video games have steadily increased in popularity and use, exactly the opposite of what one would expect if there were a causal link.
  • Many games with violent content sold in the U.S. — and some with far more violence — are also sold in foreign markets.  However, the level of violent crime in these foreign markets is considerably lower than that in the U.S., suggesting that influences such as the background of the individual, the availability of guns and other factors are more relevant to understanding the cause of any particular crime.
  • Numerous authorities, including the U.S. Surgeon General, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and several U.S. District Courts have examined the scientific record and found that it does not establish any causal link between violent programming and violent behavior.

The truth is, there is no scientific research that validates a link between computer and video games and violence, despite lots of overheated rhetoric from the industry’s detractors.  Instead, a host of respected researchers has concluded that there is no link between media violence and violent crime.

Some facts about the computer and video game industry today may just surprise you:

  • The average gamer is 35 years old.
  • More than one-third of gamers are women .
  • More than one in four gamers is over 50.
  • The average game purchaser is 40 years old.
  • Sixty-three percent of parents believe games are a positive part of their children’s lives.
  • Sales of “family entertainment” video games more than doubled in 2007, making it the fastest growing segment of the video game market.
  • Ninety-four percent of the time, parents are present at the time games are purchased or rented.
  • Eighty-eight percent of the time, parents report always or sometimes monitoring the games their children play.
  • Seventy-five percent of parents believe that the parental controls available in all new video game consoles are useful.

From: with the fuller report at:

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26 Responses to FYI: Video Game Statistics by the Entertainment Software Association

  1. I can not believe the average age of a gamer is 35! I have always thought that most gamers were closer to my age (20).

  2. Oldschooler says:

    You think the old school gamers of the 80′s and 90′s just went away? “Grew up”, and bent over for the “Man”. Don’t think so buddy.

  3. Rich says:

    Violent video games inherently make people more violent. Games are not the direct cause for violence, but studies have proven people who play hostile and violent video games do act more violent. This website is bogus. Get your facts straight.

  4. changed says:

    @ Rich: First, these aren’t *our* facts; they’re facts reported by the ESA. Second, you’re right in that there are some correlations between playing violent video games and violent behavior (though demonizers tend to pin it on video games rather than let’s say the nightly news or a rugby match). However, the “inherently make people” and “not the direct cause” are exactly the contradiction that is impossible to suss out. The ESA’s “facts” side obviously with the “no direct cause” (which I am more willing to buy). Third, if we do understand violent media to be affecting people, we cannot ignore other cofactors like education, parenting, cultural norms, policing, and so on that are antidotes. Playing video games is not a one way activity.

  5. Bob says:

    This debate is interesting….ever think the children are becoming more violent because parents don’t take the time to teach their children about moderation. The world is full of harmfull products, sharp needles, and crazy people not to mention heavily violent games. You just need to turn on the news, or walk out your door to see this, not necessarily play a game to be exposed to it on a regular basis. It is important that we realize its more important to educate children on what is good and what is bad ….instead of trying to remove all the bad things from the world or rate them…. It will never fly. One valuable lesson taught can enstill 1,000 more….however…the lessons kids are being taught today is if were aloud to buy it, it can’t be that bad…Just like we teach our teens its ok to drink alchol because its legal…its bad to smoke pot because its not? one is addicitve ones is not…one is linked to millons of deaths a year…the other not 1….but yet we can control it. Teach your children how to teach themselves.. don’t blame video games for the world being so violent.

  6. Betts says:

    I read the other day where someone said, and i quote, “Hitler did not have a sony playstation game calle ‘Exterminate the Jews’”. The link between violent games and violent behavior is what is bogus here. The studies show that kids with violent tendencies are drawn more to violent games, but they were already violent in nature. Also, they did not report the studies that showed no link or a very small link. There are to many other factors in day to day life that cause people to be angry and aggressive. Video games is more of a stress reliever and helps an individual get out there aggression with out hurting anybody, anything, or themselves in there daily life!!!

  7. Hannah Kim says:

    Video games shouldn’t be blamed for everything about youth violence. I mean, television and other sources of violent media sure played their roles. Violent video games are not the only or the main cause for youth violence. Also, who said that it was media today that makes youth more violent? There are plenty of other reasons, and people should really stop blaming everything on video games.

  8. George says:

    Video Games are not the only benefactor to causing violent behavior. My friends play tons of violent video games and they are pacifists ironically.

  9. Kyle says:

    I personally don’t believe that video games cause violence. I grew up on games such as “Halo”, “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto” and have never wanted to cause another living organism harm. People should look at the environment in which the child was raised, people they hung out with, and so on. That is what causes violence, not a game.

  10. Chris says:

    i believe in your response its not the game it is the people that have been hanging with the kids. games are like a television show sooner or later they go off and then wat do u do? hang wit ur buddies. mischief. look at adolesent disobediance (in the city) or juvinile activity sence 1990 can anybody say decrease?

  11. will says:

    yeah, the most influence for violence is at home or on the news, or so I’ve heard.

  12. Russell Good says:

    I have seen the graphs that game sites use. But conveniently they only cover back to the mid eighties. After a particularly violent 1950s in the US the decline has been in full swing until just recently. No doubt the decline was due to a stable economy. But this is over, so expect the level of violence to increase again. And with increased confrontations that unstable economies bring, then the negatives of mindless years of kill kill kill will manifest itself. Usable war and ‘security’ fodder!

  13. Bigg Boss 5 says:

    I can not believe the average age of a gamer is 35! I have always thought that most gamers were closer to my age (20). Jas from Bigg Boss 5

  14. Mike says:

    Those of you who says studies prove that violent games make people more violent need to check your own fact. See how this “violence” is measured.
    People who are violent send loud static to others over headphones. Or fill in blanks with violent words. If that is the measure of violent tendencies then I think were pretty safe from gamers.

  15. Claw73z says:

    To be thoroughly entertained, one also becomes completely detained. That being said, I did not mind one minute of the 24-plus hours I put into RE4 on the NGC my first playthrough, nor did I give up (amidst much cursing and complaint) the ferocious life-sucking grind that is Ninja Gaiden on the original Xbox. Both Games were violent and bloody and rated accordingly, but not for one moment did I feel either of those games playing me.
    I may be wrong, but I believe most all games have an element of dictated control over the player due to it’s particular set of rules. The best (better yet, timeless) video games keep that element to a gentle minimum and, in the process, give the player creative freedom to experience the carefully crafted other world at their leisure.
    However, there are some games out there that exact artificial urgency upon the player to such a level that I felt the “game playing me”. I generally stay away from those types of games, but have given attention to the few that sell well and receive critical praise. I just cannot see one through to it’s completion.
    I say all that to ask this: Who will be detaining our future generation? Are the games playing them? Do we spend their future with our consumerism? Are we preparing them for war by calling them to duty on the perpetual battlefield?
    And one more thing: the new Battlefield and Call of Duty iterations are coming for Christmas and I can’t shake the notion of buying more war that we’re already paying for.
    Just mi2c.

  16. RH says:

    On these “statistics,” for crying out loud, CONSIDER THE SOURCE!!

    If the above statements are true:

    The average game player is 35 years old and has been playing games for 12 years.


    - Ninety-four percent of the time, parents are present at the time games are purchased or rented

    …then video gamers must be a bunch of old losers, still being supervised by their parents.

    It’s important to keep in mind, when reviewing statistics provided by industry organizations, that those organizations will tell you ANY LIE THEY NEED YOU TO BELIEVE.

    After decades studying (to certification), working, managing, consulting and training/teaching in — and reporting on — a wide range of technology industries (including the electronics/computer industry), I have been consistently disgusted at the utter lies that these industry “representatives” spew forth, with even less regard for the truth than talk-radio pundits and commercial televangelists.

    How do you know an industry representative is lying? When his/her lips are moving.

    Having worked in trade media (my works have been published globally, and I’ve served as an international trade publication journalism awards judge), it has been an excruciating thing to try and get at honest statistics.

    Only industries very heavily regulated by the government — with legally mandated data reporting — consistitently produce anything even remotely approaching honest, meaningful and reliable statistics. And even those fudge the figures whenever they think they can get away with it.

    To make sure that their phony “data” is upheld, industry giants and organizations seek out and subsidize (sometimes very surreptitiously) those academic institutions and academics whose writings lend credence to the industry’s tall tales and outright frauds.

    Some of those institutions and academics are sluts wiling to prostitute themselves to the industry.

    Others are simply wrong, sometimes very honestly mistaken or a bit sloppy and incompetent, but their mistaken data is kept in the global limelight by a grateful and supportive industry.

    It is important, when reviewing commercial and industrial statistics, to be absolutely certain of the sources, the methodology for establishing the data, and then to step back from the data and ask yourself “does this really make sense, in any normal perception of the wider world?”

    It’s also extremely important to ask yourself “Is this a statistic I WANT to believe? DISbelieve?” and push yourself away from your prejudices.

    When you’ve really checked out most ballyhooed published commercial and industrial statistics from the industry itself, in a professional, responsible adult way, you usually find out there’s not a helluva lot of solid research there, underpinning the data.

    I’m quite concerned by this academic venue being used as a mouthpiece for trade-organization propaganda, without any supplemental independent statistical research or data presented to confirm or discredit the trade group.

    A lot of bad things happen when good men do nothing.

    Likewise, a lot of misinformation gets spread when academics don’t do their homework and check their “facts,” before repeating them to others.

  17. James says:

    I play Halo, GTA, Call of Duty. yes I yell into the headset, but I think it is healthier to let it out then keep it in. but kids that are playing the M rated in High school are like 10-16 years old, that is why I yell.

  18. Noel says:

    @Rich, who posted on September 17, 2010 at 9:11 am is a narrow-minded moron.
    The following is a quote from an essay written by Henry Jenkins a college professor and the director of comparative studies at MIT:
    “Claims like this are based on the work of researchers who represent one relatively narrow school of research, “media effects.” This research includes some 300 studies of media violence. But most of those studies are inconclusive and many have been criticized on methodological grounds. In these studies, media images are removed from any narrative context. Subjects are asked to engage with content that they would not normally consume and may not understand. Finally, the laboratory context is radically different from the environments where games would normally be played. Most studies found a correlation, not a causal relationship, which means the research could simply show that aggressive people like aggressive entertainment. That’s why the vague term “links” is used here. If there is a consensus emerging around this research, it is that violent video games may be one risk factor – when coupled with other more immediate, real-world influences — which can contribute to anti-social behavior. But no research has found that video games are a primary factor or that violent video game play could turn an otherwise normal person into a killer.”
    Get YOUR facts straight before you call bogus, dude.

  19. Joe says:

    argumentation is a form of aggression as is anything with an opponent real or not there is no form of media out there that is truly neutral and doesn’t put anything real or not in a situation of hypothetical stress. morality and opinion of ethics is what dictates everything to people. very little is truly binary in the end this subject’s base is human nature and what stimulates violent behavior, humans are naturally aggressive in some form or another. so those deemed violent would be those who are in fact more aggressive than most, this is a moving part in a complex system; ones environment genetics even their decisions are what make someone sensitive to media of any form with “good” and “bad” side. war has existed long before video games and long after them it will still exist. no one ever asks what makes those that design these games or write these shows, movies, books, etc. so aggressive as to think these thoughts. the answer is its human nature. the reality is that media is used as an excuse it can only amplify what is already there, which it doesn’t always do for only in subjects that are unstable in a certain way adjust their behavior on the basis of media that can be found around them. say you take a murderer who killed based off a book and say you hypothetically replace all instances of that book with something like teletubbies, would that stop the violent behavior? it’d be very unlikely the killer would most likely adjust his behavior to teletubbies in some way. in the end the blame falls solely on those guilty although it is comforting to think we can prevent such behaviors it is something that is near impossible to stop even when media is completely gone there will always be thought.

  20. Brad says:

    I have read studies and i have been a gamer my whole life and i can say that violent video games don’t cause violence. I grew up playing video games from the age of 2 starting with the original Mario, Zelda, and Tetris. When i was about 5 i got Super Smash Bros. and i still wasn’t a violent kid. I also played most of the 007 games from the N64 and the GameCube. I am a huge hockey fan and have played the games for years. I also played the Need For Speed games and love them. Now i play a lot of Call of Duty and when i say a lot i mean it. Through my entire life i have only ever gotten into one fight and it was when i was 7 because the other kid had been threatening me and attacked me first. In the studies that i read the only things that they did was have them “gamers” answer standerdised anger questions and see how much static that they will send to the other “gamer”.

  21. Gamer Gurl says:

    There are some studies out there looking at returning war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder which have found that violent video games actually alleviate some of their symptoms. Kind of like the idea of a bully’s mom signing him up for martial arts classes– maybe they just need an outlet to cope with aggression. I think the larger problem is with the causality– do violent games CAUSE people to be more violent or do more violent people gravitate towards violent games (rather than Tetris or something)? A lot of studies are out there saying “there is a connection” and people read it as “one thing causes another,” which is not the same thing. We all need to be critical consumers of pop research before making sweeping claims grounded in limited experience or data. Just a thought.

  22. Brayden says:

    I personally think that violent video games do not cause violence. Violent people cause violence, but video games don’t make them that way. The only thing in a video game, that can cause some anger, is when you lose or something like that. That can happen in super mario bros. When something like that does happen, you throw a controller, rage quit, or whatever. You don’t just go off and hurt random people. I play halo, call of duty, mass effect, etc., and i have never been in a fight. I have come very close, but its always with the same kid. So those games haven’t made me violent, and they don’t make other people violent. Some people just enjoy playing violent video games.

  23. Skye says:

    Okay, if little Tony can’t distinguish that you can’t rip someone’s spine out of their asses in real life, thats not my fault. Blame his parents for not teaching him.Dont punish the rest of us.

  24. Calenchamien says:


    You want to know what really weakens your argument? The fact that your one and only “proof” of your claims that we readers are being lied to doesn’t indicate what you’re saying it does. “…video gamers must be a bunch of old losers, still being supervised by their parents”..? I don’t see how the statistics show that at all.
    If the average player is 34 and has been playing for 12 years, then they started when they were 23, and cannot be counted among the number of ‘child’ players. Perhaps they’re parents themselves. Moreover, an “average” is achieved by Noun
    The result obtained by adding several quantities together and then dividing this total by the number of quantities, and therefore does not indicate the actual age of *any* players. If 15 people played video games, and 10 were 10 years old, and 5 were 60, the “average” age of that group of players would be approx. 26. You’ll note that not a single person in that group actually is 26.
    Moreover, if 94% of parents (who have children who play video games. it does happen) mind their children while their children are playing, that says nothing about how many children are playing video games in the first place. Again, referring to my previous example, even if the “average” age of players was 26, the majority of players were under 18, and therefore you would hope that 94% of their parents would report minding them while they played.

    Another thing that seriously weakens your argument is that this example – one from which you have drawn a faulty conclusion – is your *only* “proof” of your claims that we as readers as being manipulated. Although you are clearly passionate about we readers seeking out “real” statistics and information, you haven’t offered even a smidge of proof that we should. What are your statistics, sir? Or ma’am? Prove your claims that we are being lied to, because if you can’t, if all the statistics, regardless or source, agree, then I see no reason to believe that those stats are not correct.
    I applaud your passion for the subject… Actually, wait. I don’t. However passionate you may feel about video games, if you can’t restrict yourself to using respectful language in your argument and instead rely on using insults, outright and in inference to describe, not only your enemy “the industry”, but us readers, inferring that we are clearly naive and stupid. Passion is no excuse for rudeness; and I’ll let you in a secret. People tend to reject wholesale things that offend them. Even truth. If you want to be listened to, be respectful, and offer proof, instead of your paranoid hate-mongering.

  25. Alex says:

    Hi, it’s funny that you guys are doing this study. I am 47 ( I used gaming as a way to do things with my children and got hooked) and have a gaming site: that I am also getting ready to do a study on.

    I just came across an opportunity to have 10,000,000 viewers to my site. Really it’s any site of my choice, but because of the demographic that they used for the viewers ( the tech savvy male-age range 16-44) I chose my game site. I have several other sites that were in the demographic i.e. health and fitness, dating/women, travel ect.

    I chose the gaming site because as bad as the economy is, people have and always will need escapism, and for me there is no better way (other than reading) that offers this in such a large scale. Just like with reading you can be anyone you choose for that moment in time.

    Unlike “studies” have shown, I do not live in my Mother’s basement. I am happily married. I have a job (I am an internet marketer, hence the video game site and the others that I mentioned) I am not a social pariah. I have two biological children but have raised fourteen. All of whom have played video games and have turned out just fine.

    Every single one of my kids knew one thing…When the game (fantasy) ended i.e., when they were through shooting martians, killing zombies, invading other countries or whatever, it was “back to life, back to reality” time.

    Having raised so many children (most of whom are grown now) if I were to blame any behavioral problems or attitudes that I didn’t like than or now, I would put my blame on the television/media groups who portray the worst possible people, i.e., the scum of humanity, as the coolest people on earth for our children to emulate (which is REAL and not Fantasy and in no way would I consider that escapism unless you’re Charles Manson)

    How about the music industry who shove the “slappin of bitches an ho’s” down our throats. “Rockin” out to songs that advocate suicide, homosexuality, hate, violence (cause if you aint slappin yo bitches and gettin paper from yo ho’s how else are you going to get that bling and the whole world handed to you for free)

    I won’t get started on the Pro Athletes who are up to a murder a month now, but will leave you with this thought: ” raise your kids right and you won’t have to worry about them”. My bottom line; Gaming is fantasy.

    The people or things that you see there only exist there. When you are done playing, that’s it. Finished until the next time.
    When you see people on TV and in music videos, and playing sports, we tend to say to ourselves ” I can be JUST like him or her……

    My Proof…Fourteen kids ages from 31-11 (great kids one and all) and still going strong.

    Oh yeah…My study. My 21 year old is in college and one of the studies they are doing is about gaming amongst men and women. We will take the findings (how many men bought as opposed to women, what games interested who, and at what age, ect.ect).

  26. Chris says:

    I have spent my career following this debate and I have read most (of the several hundred) studies involving the influence of violent media on aggression. Prior to entering graduate school, I held the appropriate opinion of “I don’t know” when judging the influence of violent media on aggression and violence. I knew that I was interested in the debate so I began to read, and read, and read some more. After taking an independent look (coupled with several years of training in research methodology and statistics), it’s become clear to me that violence in video games (and movies, and television) produce increases in aggression.
    Many make claims that these studies are all correlational and fraught with methodological error. This is simply not true. Countless experimental studies do indicate causality and longitudinal studies in which relevant covariates are controlled indicate the same relationship. For those of you unfamiliar in research methods, experimental studies serve as the premiere method for examining causal relationships. It is important to note that the common response to these forms of evidence is that “I’ve played video games all of my life and I’m not aggressive or violent”. Very true! I’ve been a gamer all of my life as well and have never committed a violent crime, nor would I consider myself aggressive in any sense. This is why media effects researchers do not make claims about video game violence as a single cause for aggression but instead serve as a risk factor (see some of the works regarding a risk-resilience approach to violent media effects). Just like the fact that parental abuse does not alone create a murderer. Violent behavior only occurs when numerous risk factors converge (e.g., parental abuse, absence of supportive adult figures, exposure to violence in the community and home, delinquent peers, etc…)
    Advertisers spend millions of dollars on 30 second commercials; convinced that their money is well spent in convincing viewers to buy their product. Yet the industry repeatedly states that the 40 minutes of violent programming in between these commercials has no influence whatsoever on the viewer. This is an absurd contradiction. The same (very small subset of) researchers who claim that video game violence and aggression are not related are convinced that viewing violence in the community and home induce aggression yet state that viewing violence on a screen holds no effect.
    Every single one of the methodological “limitations” discussed by detractors have been responded to, quite thoroughly, in numerous publications produced by prominent media effects scientists.
    The position that I’ve described above reflects that held by the most esteemed scholars in the field of media effects research. Believe it or not, this position does not serve as “the other end of the debate”. The “other end” is exemplified by individuals such as Jack Thompson who claim that video games can serve as the sole cause of violent behavior. No media effects scholar endorses this opinion and several have actively debated against this extreme position.
    As scientists, it’s critical that we communicate our research findings to the public. However, it is impossible for these researchers to delve into technical details of methods and statistics in such public forums (easy way to put people to sleep). Therefore, any layperson need only hear of the presence of the “other end of the debate” to “muddy the interpretation waters” making it impossible to decide which side is correct. For those of you who have training in research methods and behavioral statistics, I urge you to examine the literature independently. The more informed voices on this debate, the better.

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