Gaming is changing. 

Look no further than the digital-only versions of the latest PlayStation and Xbox consoles for confirmation. You literally can’t put a physical game into the PS5 Digital Edition or the Xbox Series S; they’re for downloading and streaming games only.

And according to an April 2021 survey from CivicScience, 26% of Americans ages 13 to 34 have used a video game streaming service within the last year.

Steam, Xbox Game Pass, and PlayStation Now lead the way, unsurprisingly. But the proliferation of newer services from big-name companies like Google and Amazon shows there’s room for competition in this space.

Profile of a Cloud Gamer

Video game streamers under 35 are more likely than non-streamers their age to be male: 63% of these streamers are male, compared to 44% of non-streamers.

And cloud gamers are more likely than others their age to be fully tuned into the world of online video. They’re far more likely to say they use video – any type of video, from social media to streaming to TV – to learn about products and make purchase decisions.

Cloud gamers are also much more likely than their peers to be movie-going cinephiles, suggesting that cross-platform marketing could be effective among this group.

But cloud gaming is just one aspect of the ongoing changes in the video game industry.

Gaming as a Spectator Sport

Nineteen percent (19%) of Americans ages 13 to 34 have watched a competitive eSports event within the past year. CivicScience survey data from the past year show that eSports rank relatively highly when stacked up against traditional sports in terms of under-35 interest and viewership.

These competitions often draw hundreds of thousands of viewers globally and offer big prize money. CivicScience surveyed 876 Americans under age 35 about their experience watching competitions for several games. And please note that our list of games is nowhere near complete: according to eSports Earnings, there are 75 separate games that have each awarded $1M or more in prize money to date.

But who’s watching these eSports events? Short answer: Gen Z.

And while one might assume that the makeup of the eSports audience is overwhelmingly male, it’s actually evenly split:

Although you can stream an eSports tournament from anywhere, it appears the phenomenon hasn’t made its way out into rural America just yet. Young Americans living out in the countryside are about half as likely as others their age to watch eSports.

Young eSports watchers tend to say they have difficulty spending money relative to others their age.  

That may explain why they’re so much more likely than their peers to buy something from another retailer on their phone after checking it out in-person at a store: they’re hunting for the best deal.

So far in 2021, more than 1 in 5 Americans ages 13 to 34 (21%) watch the game-streaming platform Twitch at least occasionally. That figure has been fairly steady over the past four years.

Meanwhile, live streams of video games on YouTube now attract the attention of 22% of Americans under the age of 35 at least a few times per year.

A New Type of Sports Superstar

As far as specific game-streaming personalities go, the options are endless. Of the 10 popular streaming personalities CivicScience asked about, 12% of the under-35 age group followed at least one. But it appears that Ninja (real name Tyler Blevins) and Pokimane (real name Imane Anys) are in a league of their own.

Those under 35 who follow game-streaming personalities are more likely than others their age to trust large tech companies to protect their privacy — which may bode well for the emerging cloud gaming endeavors of Google and Amazon.

This group is also quite diverse. Those who follow game-streaming personalities are less likely than their peers to identify as heterosexual and less likely to identify as white.

The gaming community is in a state of flux as cloud gaming continues to take a larger and larger role in the game-playing experience. On the other side of the coin, eSports and its top streamers now command a diverse, young audience comparable in size to that of most major U.S. sports leagues among young people.