Video games in the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Games market of the United States by revenue per platform in 2015.

Video gaming in the United States is one of the fastest-growing entertainment industries in the country. According to a 2010 study released by the Entertainment Software Association, the computer and the video game industry added $4.9 billion to the economy of the United States.[1] There are some[which?] estimates that by 2015 the worldwide gaming industry will possibly reach $70.1 billion.[needs update][2]

In statistics collected by The ESA for the year 2013, a reported 58% of Americans play video games and the average American household now owns at least one dedicated game console, PC or smartphone.[3] The households that own these items play games most commonly on their Console or PC. 36% of U.S. gamers play on their smart phones.[3] 43% of video game consumers believe games give them the most value for their money compared to other common forms of entertainment such as movies, or music.[3] In 2011, the average American gamer spent an average of 13 hours per week playing video games.[4] In 2013, almost half of Americans who were gaming more than they did in 2010 spent less time playing board games, watching TV, going to the movies, and watching movies at home.[3] When Americans game, 62% do so with others online or in person, yet the other person is more likely to be a friend than a significant other or family member.[3] The most common reason parents play video games with their children is as a fun family activity, or because they are asked to. 52% of parents believe video games are a positive part of their child's life, and 71% of parents with children under 18 see gaming as beneficial to mental stimulation or education.[3]


A Marine playing a video game
US Marine playing Top Gun in 2010.

The average age of a U.S. gamer is 35, the average number of years a U.S. gamer has been playing games is 13, and only 29% of the gamer population is under 18 years old. The American gamer population is 54% male and 46% female. Of those females, women 18 and older account for a greater portion of the population than males younger than 18.[3] The average female video game player is 44 years old, while the average male video game player is 33.[5][6]

Market statistics[edit]

The best-selling console video game genres of 2012 were action, shooters, and sports. The PC gaming market's best-selling genres were role-playing, strategy, and casual. For online games, the most popular genres are puzzle/trivia, action/strategy, and casual/social games.[3] While there are many American video game developers that have been producing games for years, Japanese video games and companies have regularly been listed in the annual lists of best sellers.[7] The U.S. computer and video game dollar sales growth of 2012 was 14.8 billion dollars, showing a drop of 1.6 billion from the year before. The Unit sales growth featured a similar drop with the report of 188 million units sold from 245.9 in 2011. U.S gaming consumers spent a total of $20.77 billion on the game industry alone and currently hard copies of video games are still dominating in sales compared to digital copies .[3]

Best-selling video games[edit]

The following titles are the top ten best-selling video games in the United States, according to sales figures from The NPD Group. The list covers console games and PC games, but does not include console pack-in game bundles, arcade video games, mobile games, or free-to-play titles. Among the top ten titles, six were developed or published by Japanese company Nintendo, two published by American company Activision, and two from British developer Rockstar North and American publisher Rockstar Games.

Rank Title Year Platform(s) Developer Publisher Genre Sales Ref
1 Grand Theft Auto V 2013 Multi-platform Rockstar North Rockstar Games Action-adventure Un­known [8]
2 Pokémon Red / Blue / Yellow / Green 1998 GB, GBA Game Freak Nintendo Role-playing 19,370,000 [a]
3 Wii Fit / Plus 2008 Wii Nintendo EAD Nintendo Exergaming 15,500,000 [11]
4 Call of Duty: Black Ops 2010 Multi-platform Treyarch Activision First-person shooter 14,983,459 [12]
5 Pokémon Gold / Silver / Crystal 2000 GBC, DS Game Freak Nintendo Role-playing 13,293,889 [b]
6 Wii Play 2006 Wii Nintendo EAD Nintendo Party 13,060,000 [11]
7 Mario Kart Wii 2008 Wii Nintendo EAD Nintendo Kart racing 11,300,000 [11]
8 Super Mario Bros. 3 1990 NES, GBA Nintendo R&D4 Nintendo Platformer 10,880,000 [c]
9 Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock 2007 Multi-platform Neversoft Activision Rhythm 10,200,000 [16]
10 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 2004 PS2, Xbox Rockstar North Rockstar Games Action-adventure 9,800,000 [16]



The beginning of video games can be traced to the year 1940, when American nuclear physicist Edward Condon designed a computer capable of playing the traditional game Nim. This device would have tens of thousands of people play it even though the computer won 90% of the time. Seven years later an American television pioneer, Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr., patented an oscilloscope displayed device that challenged players to fire a gun at a target.[17]


At the start of the 1950s another American, Claude Shannon, wrote basic guidelines on programming a chess-playing computer.[17] Although OXO was created in England by the year 1952, the findings and inventions of the Americans described helped make it possible.[18] The U.S. military dove into the computer age with the creation of a game titled Hutspiel. Considered a war game, Hutspiel depicted NATO and Soviet commanders waging war. The IBM 701 computer received programs like Blackjack and Checkers. A later IBM model featured a chess program that was capable of evaluating four ply ahead. The '50s also included the largely forgotten tennis game created by Willy Higinbotham that anticipated the famous game Pong.[17]


The military continued to take part in video gaming in the 1960s when, shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis The Defense Department created a war game known as STAGE (Simulation of Total Atomic Global Exchange). STAGE was created to be political propaganda that showcased how the U.S. would be victorious in a Thermonuclear war with the Soviet Union.[17] The idea of video games that were usable on televisions was conceived by the engineer Ralph Baer and with the help of a team, Baer completed two successful TV games in this decade. The first interactive media computer game, Spacewar eventually had the future founders of Atari create an arcade game of it titled Computer Space that became the first video arcade game ever released.[17][19]


The 1970s included the birth of the video game console. The first console released was titled Magnavox Odyssey and the foundation of Atari occurred around the same time, marking the start of Pong's development. Upon Pong's completion it became the hottest selling Christmas product of 1975. The evolution of the console was incredibly rapid. A few years after their invention, consoles received microprocessors and programmable ROM cartridge based games, allowing users the ability to change games by simply switching cartridges. Important consoles released at this time were the Telstar, Fairchild Channel F., and Atari 2600. Arcade games also received advances with the game Space Invaders, which allowed high scores to be tracked and displayed. A year later the game Asteroids built on the idea and gave high scorers the ability to enter initials by their scores.[17][19]


The technological advances of the late '70s led to the introduction of the Intellivision in 1980, which featured better video game graphics but a higher price tag. In two years, the Commodore 64 changed the market by not only being the most powerful console of the time but also the cheapest. With the lowered prices, popularity of the video game industry continued to grow and the first video game magazine, Electronic Games, was printed. However, attempts to copycat on the success of the Atari 2600 saturated the market, and the video game crash of 1983 decimated the industry in the United States. With the American-produced games on the downswing, Nintendo successfully launched the Nintendo Entertainment System in America in 1985, revitalizing the market with the introduction of the third and fourth generation of home consoles such as the Master System, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, Atari 7800, and the TurboGrafx-16, with systems transitioning to support 3D graphics and support for optical media rather than cartridges.[17][19]


The early '90s saw the introduction of the Super NES, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Tamagotchi, and Dreamcast, whose sales brought the damaged video game industry back to life. During this decade, the PlayStation was considered the most popular console when its 20 millionth unit sold. In 1993, the video game industries' first debate began and its focus was on violence found in video games. This debate fueled Senator Joseph Lieberman's desire to ban all violent games and from this investigation the Entertainment Software Rating Board was created in 1994; giving all games a printed suggested age rating on their packaging.[17][19][20]


The 2000s brought Sony even more popularity when its PlayStation 2 had such a high American consumer demand that it actually affected the console's availability to be purchased during the first few shipments; the PlayStation 2 remains the best-selling console of all time in the United States. Microsoft and Nintendo also saw this popularity with the release of their own sixth and seventh generation of consoles, the Xbox and GameCube, respectively. Mass availability of the Internet introduced online connectivity on consoles for multiplayer games as well as digital storefronts to sell games. Digital storefronts also enabled the growth of the indie game market, expanding from computers onto consoles over this decade. Motion control-enabled games, popularized by the Wii console, grew in popularity.[17][19] According to estimates from Nielsen Media Research, approximately 45.7 million U.S. households in 2006 (or approximately 40 percent of approximately 114.4 million) owned a dedicated home video game console.[21][22]


Within the 2010s, a larger shift towards casual and mobile gaming on smartphones and tablets became significant, in part due to a wider demographic of video game players drawing in more female and older players.[23] The concept of Games as a service, emerged as a trend for developers and publishers to have long-tail monetization of a game well after release. Continuing from the previous decade, a large number of independently developed video games emerged as games on par with those from major publishers, made easier to promote and distribute through digital storefronts on personal computers, consoles, and mobile store markets. All three major console manufacturers released next generation consoles: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, and Nintendo Switch. Major developments in mixed reality games - both augmented reality and virtual reality - grew in popularity during the 2010s as the cost of required hardware dropped. Esports became a significant market in the United States after its initial popularity in Eastern Asia countries. In 2015, 51 percent of U.S. households owned a dedicated home video game console according to an Entertainment Software Association annual industry report.[24][25]


Microsoft and Sony have released their successors to their eighth generation consoles in November 2020, the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5. Both systems support high-definition graphics, real-time ray-tracing, game streaming and cloud-based gaming. Nintendo has continued with their Nintendo Switch at the beginning of this decade.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown causing people to stay in their homes, people picked up video games which caused a big boom in sales throughout 2019 all the way into 2021. The NPD Group reported that video game sales in North America in March 2020 were up 34% from those in March 2019, video game hardware up by 63%.[26] Game companies also saw this as an opportunity to expand what they could do to entertain, so Epic Games hosted the first and second ever live in-game concert through Fortnite, first with Marshmello and second with “an in-game Travis Scott concert saw over 12 million concurrent views from players”.[27]


Education training[edit]

Video game designers are required to have a variety of skills and innate abilities that feature a vast amount of training in computer graphics, animation and software design. On top of these skills a successful designer needs a powerful imagination and knowledge of the various consoles' operating systems. Programming and hardware essentials are a must, considering games are sophisticated computer software. To get into the field many colleges offer classes, certificates, and degrees in computer programming, computer engineering, software development, computer animation, and computer graphics. Internships or apprenticeships are important to get hands on experience. If possible an aspiring American game designer should conduct freelance work. There is even the possibility of designing a game independently, using a wide array of available software. Building an independent game can be risky yet the finished product gives employers insight on what the designer is capable of; just like a portfolio.[28]

Job market[edit]

The U.S. video game industry continues to function as a vital source of employment. Currently, video game companies directly and indirectly employ more than 120,000 people in 34 states. The average compensation for direct employees is $90,000, resulting in total national compensation of $2.9 billion.[29]

The current job market for game design in the US is extremely competitive, however it is soon expected to have a 32% increase in software publishing jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.[30] An American game designer's salary depends on where the designer works, who they work for, and what kind of designer they are. A good starting place on finding average salaries is International Game Developers Association's entry level salary report that lists $50,000 to $80,000 annually; averaging $57.600. A closer comparison to what a US Game developing job could potentially start at is the Learn Direct's report of $37,000 yearly.[28]

Game ratings and government oversight[edit]

Prior to 1993, there was no standardized content rating body in the United States, but with games becoming more violent and with capabilities to show more realistic graphics, parents, politicians, and other concerned citizens called for government regulation of the industry. The 1993 congressional hearings on video games, putting the recently released Mortal Kombat and Night Trap in the spotlight, drew attention to the industry's lack of a standardized rating system. While individual publishers like Sega and Nintendo had their own methods of rating games, they were not standardized and allowed discrepancies between different console systems including sales of violent games to minors. Members of Congress threatened to pass legislation that would mandate government oversight of video games if the industry did not create its own solution.[31] The industry responded in 1994 by the formation of the trade group the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA), today known as the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), and the creation of the voluntary Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) ratings system, a system that met the governmental concerns of the time.[32] The ESRB focused mostly on console games at its founding. Computer video game software used the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) through 1999, but transitioned to use ESRB in 1999 while the RSAC became more focused on rating online content from the Internet.[33][34]

Since 1993, several incidents of gun violence in the United States, such as the Columbine School shooting of 1999, put more blame on video games for inciting these crimes, thought there is no conclusive proof that violent video games lead to violent behavior. Under demands of parents and concerned citizens, federal and state governments have attempted to pass legislation that would enforce the ESRB rating systems for retail that would pose fines to retailers that sold mature-rated games to minors.[20][35] This came to a head in the Supreme Court of the United States case Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, which concluded in 2010 that video games were considered a form of protected speech, and regulation of their sales could only be mandated if the material passed the Miller test for obscene material.[20][36]

The ESRB remains a voluntary system for rating video games in the United States, though nearly all major retail outlets will refuse to sell unrated games and will typically avoid selling those listed as "AO" for adults only. Retailers are voluntarily bound by the age ratings, though the Federal Trade Commission, in 2013, found that the ESRB system had the best compliance of preventing sales of mature games to minors compared to the other American entertainment industries.[37] In addition to age ratings, the ESRB rating includes content descriptors (such as "Nudity", "Use of Drugs", and "Blood and Gore") to better describe the type of questionable material that may be in the game. The ESRB not only rates games after reviewing material submitted by the publisher, but also spot-checks games after release to make sure no additional content had been added after review, applying fines and penalties to publishers that do so. Notably, the ESRB was heavily involved over the Hot Coffee mod, a user mod of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that unlocked a sex scene that had been on the retail disc but otherwise inaccessible without the mod.[38] Currently 85% of American parents are aware of the ESRB rating system and many are finding parental controls on video game consoles useful.[3]

In the digital storefront space, including digital-only games and downloadable content for retail games, the ESRB does not require ratings though encourages developers and publishers to utilize the self-assessment ratings tools provided by the International Age Rating Coalition to assign their game a rating which can propagate to other national and regional ratings systems, such as the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system.[39]

Arcade games in the United States are rated separated under a "Parental Advisory System" devised by the American Amusement Machine Association, the Amusement & Music Operators Association, and the International Association for the Leisure and Entertainment Industry, along with guidelines for where more mature games should be located in arcades and other code of conduct principles for arcade operators.[40][41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Red sold 4.9 million. Blue sold 5.03 million. Yellow sold 5.2 million.[9] FireRed and LeafGreen sold 2.12 million each.[10]
  2. ^ Gold sold 3.8 million. Silver sold 3.9 million.[13] Crystal sold 1.65 million.[10] HeartGold and SoulSilver sold 3,943,889.[12]
  3. ^ Super Mario Bros. 3 sold more than 8 million for Nintendo Entertainment System.[14][15] Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 sold 2.88 million for Game Boy Advance.[10]


  1. ^ Stephen E. Siwek. "Video Games in the 21st Century: The 2012 Report" (PDF). Retrieved December 1, 2012.
  2. ^ Patrick Rishe (April 18, 2012). "Trends in the Multi-Billion Dollar Video Game Industry: Q/A with Gaming Champ Fatal1ty". Forbes. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j 2013 Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry Archived February 17, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. N.p.: Entertainment Software Association, 2013. Entertainment Software Association. Web. October 9, 2013.
  4. ^ "Time spent gaming on the rise - NPD". GameSpot. Archived from the original on October 23, 2010. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  5. ^ "2017 Sales, Demographic, and Usage Data: Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry" (PDF). January 12, 2018. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 12, 2018. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  6. ^ Frank, Allegra (April 29, 2016). "Take a look at the average American gamer in new survey findings". Polygon. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  7. ^ "Video games that get lost in translation - Technology & science - Games | NBC News". NBC News. April 28, 2004. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
  8. ^ "Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. Reports Results for Fiscal Second Quarter 2018". Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. November 7, 2017. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  9. ^ "Top 10 best-selling video games". The Cincinnati Enquirer. September 24, 2007. p. A5. Retrieved May 20, 2022 – via Source: The NPD Group
  10. ^ a b c "US Platinum Chart Games". The Magic Box. Archived from the original on October 9, 2021. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  11. ^ a b c "Super Mario Galaxy Becomes Ninth Wii Game to Sell More Than 5 Million Units". Gamasutra. March 8, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  12. ^ a b Orland, Kyle (November 8, 2011). "Black Ops Leads 2010-2011 U.S. Sales With 15M Units". Gamasutra. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  13. ^ Lazich, Robert (July 28, 2003). "Best-Selling Video Games, 1995-2002". Market Share Reporter 2004. Cengage Gale. p. 283. ISBN 978-0-7876-7219-5. Data show units sold, in millions, from 1995 through September 2002. (...) Source: USA Today, October 30, 2002, p. 4D, from NPD Funworld TRSTS service
  14. ^ Ehrlich, Willie (January 6, 1991). "Beeping Invasion". Lancaster Eagle-Gazette. p. 13. Retrieved January 6, 2021. Super Mario Bros. 3 sold more than eight million units after its introduction last March.
  15. ^ "Good Housekeeping". Good Housekeeping. Vol. 212. Hearst Corporation. 1991. p. 152. 8 million Super Mario Bros. 3 games were sold in 1990
  16. ^ a b Thorsen, Tor (January 21, 2010). "NPD: Wii Play top US best-seller to date". GameSpot. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Video Game History Timeline." ICHEG. International Center for the History of Electronic Games, n.d. Web. October 10, 2013.
  18. ^ Cohen, D. S. 'OXO Aka Noughts and Crosses - The First Video Game"," ""n.d. Web. October 15, 2013. Retrieved on November 5, 2013
  19. ^ a b c d e Kudler, Amanda. "Timeline: Video Games."," Infoplease, 2007. Retrieved on November 3, 2013.
  20. ^ a b c "Video Games On Trial: Part Four -- In Summation, Looking Towards November 2". G4. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  21. ^ Arendt, Susan (March 5, 2007). "Game Consoles in 41% of Homes". WIRED. Condé Nast. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  22. ^ Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008 (PDF) (Report). Statistical Abstract of the United States (127 ed.). U.S. Census Bureau. December 30, 2007. p. 52. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  23. ^ Leonov, Ievgen (December 29, 2014). "Mobile and Social Gaming Industry: 2014 Highlights". Gamasutra. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  24. ^ North, Dale (April 14, 2015). "155M Americans play video games, and 80% of households own a gaming device". VentureBeat. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  25. ^ 2015 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry (Report). Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry. Vol. 2015. Entertainment Software Association. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  26. ^ "March 2020 NPD: Animal Crossing powers March to blockbuster game sales". VentureBeat. April 21, 2020. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
  27. ^ Miceli, Max (April 27, 2020). "Fortnite's Travis Scott concert drew more than 27.7 million unique participants". Dot Esports. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
  28. ^ a b Crosby, Tim. "How Becoming a Video Game Designer Works"," "HowStuffWorks", n.d. Retrieved on November 5, 2013
  29. ^ . "Economic Impact", "ESA", 2010, Retrieved on November 3, 2013.
  30. ^ ""Software Developers: Job Outlook"." "U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics", July 18, 2012, Retrieved on November 3, 2013.
  31. ^ Crossley, Rob (June 2, 2014). "Mortal Kombat: Violent game that changed video games industry". BBC. Archived from the original on August 1, 2018. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  32. ^ Buckley, Sean (June 6, 2013). "Then there were three: Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and the evolution of the Electronic Entertainment Expo". Engadget. Archived from the original on September 9, 2017. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  33. ^ "More Game Ratings". GamePro. No. 86. IDG. November 1995. p. 189.
  34. ^ "75 Power Players". Next Generation. Imagine Media (11): 67. November 1995.
  35. ^ Cornelius, Doug (November 4, 2010). "Violent Video Games and the Supreme Court". Wired. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  36. ^ Kennedy, Kyle. "A Look At the Renewed National Debate On Violent Video Games." Ledger Media Group, July 20, 2013. Web. October 10, 2013.
  37. ^ "FTC Undercover Shopper Survey on Entertainment Ratings Enforcement Finds Compliance Highest Among Video Game Sellers and Movie Theaters" (Press release). Federal Trade Commission. March 25, 2013. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  38. ^ Eric Bangeman (January 27, 2006). "Take-Two Interactive Sued over Hot Coffee Mod". Ars Technica. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
  39. ^ "Game Makers Push to Make Ratings Consistent Across All Platforms". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  40. ^ Layton, Thomas (September 19, 2003). "Theater group to impose ratings on arcade games". GameSpot. Archived from the original on October 27, 2017. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  41. ^ "Parental Advisory System". American Amusement Machine Association. September 12, 2016. Retrieved January 7, 2020.