It might be the land of the free, but is it the land of free-to-play? As the industry recovers from another huge E3 showing, SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen examines the state of games in the US of A
In America everything is bigger – and its games market is no exception.
With $19.8 billion (12.6bn) in sales this year across all categories (excluding hardware) it is clear that Americans love gaming.
As a consequence, the US also serves as a tastemaker for other international markets. For most publishers and developers, it is the most important Western market, and they'll do anything to impress this massive consumer audience.
So as the industry continues to soar on the back of an exciting E3, let's take a look at the US games market and do a quick status update.
Gaming is big – and mainstream
For a long time, the US games industry catered to a much more narrow demographic. But today, around 163 million Americans – half of the total population – play games. This is up from 145 million just two years ago.
This much larger market has dramatically changed the playing field for publishers, since now that so many more people play games, the overall audience is also a lot more diverse. In the United States, 58 per cent of the mobile gamer population is female.
It's ridiculous, of course, to suggest that women simply didn't play games up until recently – rather, the games industry failed to properly cater to them instead. But now that the business itself has levelled up and become more inclusive, we expect the content offering to follow suit.
US-based publishers are still going strong
Despite the growing dominance of Asian publishers like Tencent, Nexon and NCSoft, and their persistent pursuit of the US market, the top American publishers still run the show.
The big US-based publishers generated a cool $10.2 billion (6.5bn) in total sales in 2014, and franchises like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto maintain a strong position among the top-selling titles worldwide.
"The top US publishers generated a cool $10.2 billion (6.5bn) in sales in 2014."
Joost van Dreunen, SuperData
Digital games are a thing now
Traditionally, the US has been a retail-based market. Both specialty chains like GameStop and general retailers like Walmart make a mint selling games, especially during the holiday season. But even so, in just a few years a growing amount of spending on games has begun to take place via digital channels.
In the US, mobile gaming is the most popular digital category, with $4.5 billion (2.9bn) in annual revenues estimated in 2015.
Remarkably, digitalisation has given new life to PC-based gaming; combined, social games, PC DLC, free-to-play MMOs and pay-to-play MMOs account for $7.3 billion (4.7bn) in annual sales.
Even though the US has long been primarily a console market, PC gaming can no longer be ignored. As audiences adopt new ways to get access to and play games, the industry will follow.
GDP (Per Capita): $54,596
Capital City: Washington, D.C
GameStop, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Toys R Us, Kmart, Costco, Fred Meyer, Fry's Electronics, Hastings Entertainment, Play N Trade, Gamers, Slackers
US Games Distribution, BigBen Interactive, BR-1 America, CI Games, Creative Mind, EZ Games, Mecca Electronics, Ram Rom Games, Royal Electronics, EOne, GameWorld, Importel, Koch Media, Play N Trade
Rockstar, 343 Industries, Bungie, Blizzard, Ubisoft, Nintendo, Infinity Ward, Treyarch, Sony, Naughty Dog, EA, Epic Games, Capcom, BioWare, Bethesda, Id Software, PopCap, Riot Games
PUBLISHERS IN THE REGION
Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, EA, Ubisoft, Warner Bros, Activision Blizzard, Bethesda, Bandai Namco, Square Enix, Take-Two, Sega, Capcom, Telltale Games, Konami, Riot Games