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These Are Gen Z & Millennials’ 17 Favorite Video Games

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketing

With massive video game hits making more money than ever, and taking up a ton of young consumers’ time, brands need to understand which games to pay attention to now…

Gaming is taking up a massive amount of young consumers’ time. According to our The State of Gaming report, the majority of young consumers are gaming in some capacity, with three in five 13-36-year-olds playing mobile games weekly, and over two in five playing console/PC games weekly. Gamers are an increasingly diverse, and large, group—and in the last year, it became more clear than ever just how much their gaming time means to brands’ bottom lines. Red Dead Redemption 2 earned a record-setting $725 million in its opening weekend—a number the Hollywood Reporter reported was more than all of Sony’s other entertainment categories, including “pictures, music and home electronics,”  a number beyond the box office’s wildest dreams. It’s the second-highest grossing entertainment release ever—only exceeded by another video game: Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V. Amazingly, that wasn’t the biggest gaming story of the year. No one could escape the tales of Fortnite’s success, and TechCrunch reported that Fortnite’s parent company is making as much money as Amazon—and more than American Express, Starbucks, and Target. That’s right, the free-to-play game reportedly helped Epic Games turn a cool $3 billion profit in 2018. According to CNET, nearly 80 million people played the battle royale-style game that’s took over the internet in 2018, and over 65% of them were under-24-years-old. Where’s the cash coming from? In-game purchases, like players’ “skins” (what their characters look like). The video game company also offers plenty of branded merch on their sites for fans of the franchise to keep the cash flowing.

But brands were also cashing in on the craze, targeting fans through in-game activations. Marketing Dive reported that Dollar Shave Club, which has a history of being quick to embrace gaming trends, accrued 9.8 million views across their nine in-game videos this summer. Meanwhile, Marvel promoted upcoming films by offering Iron Man and Thanos skins, so players could change their avatars’ appearance to emulate their favorite characters—and earn Marvel some free marketing. Blue Apron, Casper, and even 1-800-Flowers were spotted using Fortnite, too. Brands are also playing with video game partnerships off the screen:

Rockstar Games teamed up with Clothier for a limited-edition line inspired by Red Dead Redemption 2s western garb. The unlikely collab joins the likes of Louis Vuitton and Nike, who also fused their fashion with popular video games, according to AListDaily.

With video games taking so much of Gen Z and Millennials attention, and dollars, it’s become vital for brands to understand which are the most popular—and 70% of Gen Z and Millennials who play video games told us that more brands should pay attention to gamer culture. To that end, our State of Gaming report also asked 13-36-year-olds, “What is your favorite video game?”* We’ve got their top answers, ranked in a list of the 15 most popular games of the moment:

*This was an open-end response question to allow us to capture the full range of games that Gen Z and Millennials say are their favorites—without our preconceived ideas shaping their responses. As with any qualitative question, the responses include those that are top of mind and those that are most popular. The lists are ordered according to number of responses received, and alphabetically when ties occurred.

What Are Their Favorite Video Games?
  1. The Sims
  2. Call of Duty
  3. Mario Kart
  4. Legend of Zelda
  5. Grand Theft Auto
  6. FIFA
  7. Candy Crush
  8. Pokémon
  9. Minecraft
  10. Fortnite
  11. Super Smash Bros
  12. Super Mario Bros
  13. League of Legends
  14. NBA 2K
  15. Red Dead Redemption
  16. Fallout
  17. Halo

The responses to this question were incredibly diverse, but The Sims and Call of Duty nearly tied for first place—with females heavily favoring one, and males the other. The popularity of The Sims in this ranking was very much driven by females, with far, far more female respondents naming it than males. The high ranking of The Sims may surprise some—especially considering the intense buzz around other games (like Fortnite, Red Dead Redemption, and even Pokémon). But respondents who named The Sims spoke about the features that appealed to them using words like “control” and “escape” and “relaxing.” One explained, “I get to rule play. Be anyone I want. Do whatever I want. Create people and have experiences.” Call of Duty was the most popular game among males, and many of them mentioned that they named it because they like multiplayer shooter games, action, and the excitement of the game play. Interestingly though, some mentioned loving the history integrated into the game, and also feeling nostalgic for it because they grew up playing. Of course, this wasn’t the only gender divide in game preference that we found:

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketing

Males were also more likely to prefer sports-based games like F.I.F.A., and NBA 2K, while females were more likely to favor mobile games. We saw this trend consistently in The State of Gaming. While males are far more likely to say that they are playing games on a console weekly or more, females’ weekly mobile gaming is nearly on par with males. They were also most likely to say that they play puzzle games like Bejeweled and Candy Crush (which made their top 10 here) which are more conducive to mobile play, than adventure games like Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed, which are played via console. This is likely why females were far less likely to agree with the statement “I am a gamer”—but brands shouldn’t take that as a sign that they aren’t playing. Though they may not fit into previous definitions of “gamer,” over half are playing games on their phones weekly.


To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.