ZBD Gen Z gamer study: spending habits, creators, bitcoin rewards

In game rewards platform ZBD has published a study examining Gen Z’s gaming preferences. The ZBD Gen Z Gamer Study surveyed over 2,000 respondents in the U.S. aged 18-25 that play video games at least one hour per day to understand how they play, socialize and engage with brands.

“Gen Z is the first to grow up as digital-natives, meaning there are stark differences with any that came before,” said Ben Cousens, Chief Strategy Officer at ZBD. “Things like subscriptions for digital entertainment services, which seem so new to over-30s, are already on their way to being as obsolete as the Sears catalog to Gen Z. It’s imperative for games industry companies, consumer brands and advertisers to understand how to communicate and engage with the most technologically plugged-in generation in history, which demands authenticity and fairness above all.”

key findings from ZBD's Gen Z gamer study of 2000 U.S. gamers aged 18-25
Key findings of ZBD’s survey of Gen Z gamers.

Gen Z Gamer demographics and player behavior

At a high level, Gen Z gamers are highly engaged with 65% playing more than three hours daily. The top five most played genres were Casual mobile, FPS, Adventure, RPG and Fighting games. At least 40% of the total survey engaged with each of these genres.

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Gen Z gamers play a wide variety of genres.

Of the 2,000 respondents to ZBD’s survey, 52% were male, 46% were female and another 2% were non-binary. Male players reported playing for longer than their female counterparts. About one third of males played for five or more hours while females were more likely to play for one to two hours per day.

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The majority of the sample (63%) said they worked at least part-time, while 21% said they were students and another 16% were unemployed. Gen Z is using this purchasing power on games, with 53% of survey takers spending at least $20 per month. About three out of ten male players spend over $35 each month.

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Most Gen Z gamers spend at least $20 per month

Additionally, over 85% reported spending less than $60 per month. With the vast majority of Gen Z gamers spending less that a typical full-price game per month shows the importance of free-to-play content.

Given their spending power, perhaps its no surprise that Gen Z is readily embracing subscription gaming services like Xbox Game Pass or Apple Arcade. More than half (54%) said they have a gaming subscription. This is approaching the number that reported using similar services for music (65%) and video (71%).

Brands and Creators

While Gen Z loves gaming, it’s not clear that they feel connected to established studios. Over a third (36%) felt that gaming companies run by Millennials and Gen X were out of touch with their generation.

Luckily for publishers and brands, the majority of Gen Z (70%) feel connected to creators. Per ZBD, two thirds said they would trust a brand more if a content creator they knew engaged with it.

Gen Z gamers use YouTube, TikTok and Instagram to engage with creators
YouTube, TikTok and Instagram are the most popular platforms for Gen Z gamers to engage with creators.

YouTube is the most popular place for Gen Z gamers to engage with creators with about three in four using the platform. Additionally, about 60% used TikTok and Instagram to connect with creators. Notably, TikTok was the most popular platform for female Gen Z Gamers. And despite its gaming focus, only one in four Gen Z gamers said they used Twitch.

While ZBD did look at affinity towards specific influencers, these did not include a gaming-focused creator. Instead, they prioritized (in)famous influencers such as Taylor Swift, Jake and Logan Paul, Marques Brownlee and Andrew Tate.

While Gen Z is somewhat skeptical that publishers understand their generation, they’ve given brands permission to engage with games. About seven out of ten Gen Z gamers said they have bought or would buy a branded in-game item. Further, 81% said they would play or have played games or experiences based on a non-gaming brand. However, it’s unclear how many consumers actually engaged in these ways rather than just being open to them in the future.

Rewarding engagement (with ZBD)

Gen Z is ambitious and understands that their time is precious. In addition to the 63% that are employed at least part-time, 70% of survey takers said they had some form of side hustle.

Of course, this goes both ways for creators and gaming companies. Four out of five Gen Z Gamers agreed that it’s important for content creators to be rewarded fairly for engaging with brands. Nearly 60% have rewarded a creator with a paid subscription.

Similarly, 50% of respondents said they don’t mind ads in free games, but 43% said they are so disruptive they ruin the experience. Ads are a key revenue stream for many games, so making sure they are as palatable as possible is vital. While rewarded ads exist, they typically give players in-game rather than monetary rewards.

ZBD’s platform offers players the opportunity to earn Bitcoin through playing games. Just over half (51%) of ZBD’s survey said they would be interested if their favorite games started offering Bitcoin rewards for playing. Only 22% said they had no interest in Bitcoin rewards.

Gen Z is more open to in-game ads if Bitcoin rewards are offered per ZBD's study
Bitcoin rewarded ads are enticing for gamers according to ZBD.

Additionally, Bitcoin rewards made ads more appealing to this cohort of gamers. Nearly three in four (74%) of Gen Z gamers said they would be more receptive to ads in games if they received Bitcoin for their time.

“ZBD data shows that, by sharing between 10% and 25% of ad revenue with players, games can significantly boost engagement, retention and monetization,” said ZBD’s study.

ZBD helps developers like Square Enix drive engagement and revenue
Select results of ZBD’s Bitcoin rewards platform.

Given this openness to Bitcoin rewards, perhaps it’s unsurprising that a third of survey takers said they already own cryptocurrency. Of these crypto owners, 70% own Bitcoin or 23% of Gen Z gamers overall.

ZBD’s Gen Z Gamer Study is available now.

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