Chapter 3: Gaming
RESEARCH BY APP CATEGORY
What we found for gaming apps
The mobile video game industry is now the largest in the gaming market, with 57% of players enjoying their favorite games on smartphones over PCs and consoles. Kids are no stranger to mobile games, and across 2022, they made sure to get in their daily play, engaging with gaming apps for an average of 38 minutes every day – making it the only category in our analysis to experience no change on a global level from 2021.
Kids were more than willing to grind the hours needed to progress in online games: across 2022, children clocked up over 3 hours daily on role-playing game World of Warcraft and battle arena multiplayer Defense of the Ancients 2. While time-consuming, these games paled in comparison to children’s long-time champion Roblox, which 59% of kids worldwide now play, averaging a whopping 180 minutes of gameplay per day.
THE MOST POPULAR VIDEO GAMES IN 2022
Roblox was kids’ choice on a global level and in all countries we examined, but with a noticeable difference in popularity between Spain and the rest. Roblox hit a high of 59% popularity worldwide, rising to 62% of kids in the US, 63% in Australia, and our report’s record-breaking 67% of kids in the UK. In Spain, on the other hand, just 44% of children use Roblox, only just above second place contender Clash Royale, coming in at 40% popularity.
Spain’s top 5 also featured party knockout game Stumble Guys, which didn’t feature in any other country’s top games across 2022. Australian, British, and US kids favored scenario-picking game What Would You Choose? Rather instead. Clash Royale made it to second place in the global rankings, with 24% of kids choosing to play over Minecraft, 2021’s silver medal winner. Minecraft took third place overall, decreasing in popularity from 26% to 23% of kids playing the game in 2022.
Worldwide phenomenon Among Us finally dropped out of kids’ top 5 most popular games in 2022, appearing in sixth position in the US, and falling out of the remaining popularity rankings in all other countries analyzed in this report. Globally, it was replaced by battle arena multiplayer Brawl Stars, long a favorite among Spanish kids, but making its appearance in the gaming top 5 for the first time this year.
HOW MUCH TIME DID CHILDREN SPEND ON VIDEO GAMES IN 2022?
Our analysis looks at mobile gaming, tablets, and browser applications, hinting that the real time spent on consoles, PC gaming, and other devices is much higher overall. Gaming apps still claimed third place overall in all the categories analyzed, with the top spots taken by social media and online video.
Although time spent on Roblox only increased by 4% worldwide, it’s difficult to see how levels could get notably higher, with kids spending 180 minutes – 3 hours – on the programming game daily. Time spent on Minecraft also increased on a global scale, rising from 35 daily minutes to 48, an increase of 37%. While British kids spent 15% more time on Minecraft, and children in the US extended gameplay by 36%, Australian kids signed out much earlier across 2022, decreasing their time on Minecraft by 24%, from 58 daily minutes to 44.
Children spent more time gaming at the beginning of the year, with January’s global average of 44 minutes per day dropping to 39 in December. Australian children started the year off strong, spending almost an hour (54 minutes) a day on gaming apps across January.
Spanish children spent the least amount of time gaming across 2022, averaging 28 minutes per day across the year, and reaching the record low point of just 24 minutes per day in November. Spanish children’s highest gaming activity was registered during school holiday season, in July, August, and January – a trend which was similar on a global level.
THE MOST BLOCKED VIDEO GAMES IN 2022
As seen with most categories in our report, children’s most popular apps tend to also be the most blocked, which explains why kid’s top 5 gaming apps are also reflected in the global blocking positions. For the first year since our reporting began, Roblox climbed to become the most blocked game in Spain, reflecting parents’ worries surrounding inappropriate and adult content, and kids’ increased time on the platform across 2021 and 2022.
What we expect for gaming apps
Kids and adults alike have long spent time submerged in virtual gaming worlds, but 2022’s tech buzzword, the metaverse, holds the promise of even more advanced, all-encompassing adventures. As the possibilities of virtual and augmented reality evolve, large gaming corporations will continue to explore the potential of the metaverse, offering one-of-a-kind immersive experiences to gamers around the world.
Through the metaverse, our online personalities will grow closer and closer to our real-life ones – not just through personalized avatars, but through virtual purchases, which the younger generations are beginning to value just as much, if not more, as those which can be made in real life. Kids no longer want cash rewards for chores, or a weekly allowance – in our highly connected world, online currency is king. The virtual world makes the unattainable possible, converting Gucci and Givenchy into pixels available at pocket-money prices. It’s safe to say the online gaming world makes it much simpler for kids to live out their dreams, however humble or luxurious they happen to be.
In the years to come, we anticipate that the “need” for children to have access to in-game currency will continue to grow, with advertisers and large corporations investing in ways to make online gaming purchases more attractive, accessible and affordable for the younger generations. Instead of being faced with the one-dimensional screen time worries of the past, children will also have to learn about money management in a virtual world: where the urge to spend and consume is often that much greater.
What we recommend for gaming apps
Limits with gaming aren’t just to do with the time spent playing. Families should also think about their stance on in-app purchases, loot boxes and in-game items. Whose money is being spent? Is there a monthly, or yearly limit? With so many opportunities to part with hard-earned cash or pocket money while gaming, kids need to be prepared to make wiser decisions about online spending, rather than buying on impulse.
– Boy, 12, Australia
Whether a game is the latest release or a retro blast from the past, the first step should always be getting to know it together as a family. This allows everyone to understand if they are comfortable with its content – and it’s not just violence and inappropriate language or scenarios that kids might come up against. In fact, with online gaming in general, heavy levels of in-game advertising and in-app purchases frequently affect gameplay for kids, encouraging them to spend saved pennies money in the real world.
– Boy, 12, Spain
Children and adults alike often spend long periods of time on online multiplayer games, where players can join from anywhere across the globe. It’s an opportunity for some to connect with people they wouldn’t normally meet in the real world, but at the same time, meeting strangers comes with significant risk. Without seeing the face behind the profile, kids can easily come across hackers, scammers, and predators during gaming sessions.
– Boy, 10, Australia
Children need to understand how important it is never to reveal personal information, like name, age, and address, in online chats. Ultimately, the safest way to play online games is with real-world friends in closed-off groups, or playing with friends and family present in the room.
– Boy, 11, Australia
Video games aren’t all negative: there are many positives to be found, allowing kids to explore, build their own stories, release stress and tension, and learn through play. Understanding the games kids enjoy playing is key in striking this balance, as it’s not just about the video game content, but the way they’re consuming it. 10 minutes spent on 4 fast-paced apps, with ads and in-game purchases, is arguably less beneficial than a full hour session on world-building sandbox games like Roblox or Minecraft. As always, quality over quantity is the priority.
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