YPulse has told you that Gen Z is using social media to listen to music more than streaming services—but what you really might not expect is how big an impact video games are having on their music habits. Sure, TikTok being an audio-driven video platform making waves in popular music makes sense, especially given nearly 70% of Gen Z use it. But 96% of Gen Z play video games in some capacity, with 68% playing weekly or more on a mobile device and 53% playing weekly or more on console. Clearly, they’re largely impactful, too, and brands should not rule out their potential for music influence.
We know music and gaming are high up on the list of things Gen Z loves: they’re two of their top hobbies and top ways they spend their free time. Now, it’s time to look at the crossover, and see just how music in video games is connecting with Gen Z. Data from our Music report and our Gaming report shows video games are highly influential on Gen Z’s music taste and where they listen, and how it can go beyond the ambient background sound:
More than two in five Gen Z say that video games have influenced the music they listen to. Whether the music comes from the soundtrack of the game itself or the music-centered events games now host (more on this later), there’s tons of opportunities for Gen Z to develop new favs while gaming. And though it’s not yet at the same caliber of discovery on platforms like social media, 18% of Gen Z still say they find out about new music and artists from video games.
Gaming brands like FIFA (a favorite game of Millennials) have recognized the close relationship their gamers have with the music they feature. Last year, they collabed with Spotify to release a playlist of players’ favorite songs from their soundtracks over the past 25 years, which for some players represents the culture of the year they were featured—making the playlist a time capsule of young people’s favorite artists.
Being that Gen Z gamers spend an average of five to seven hours a week playing video games, it makes sense that 30% of Gen Z overall say they use video games to listen to music. Afterall, the music is built in, and it’s become far more than the repetitive, danger-cueing tunes of traditional Mario and Zelda games. Now, Gen Z favorites like Fortnite and global gaming leaders like League of Legends have gone out of their way to collab with major artists for game songs and events, only increasing the number of young players who can rely on gaming for music to listen to.
On the other hand, when they aren’t listening to music through games, Spotify stats show that they’re listening to music from video games on streaming services. Esports betting site Unikrn created a list of the top 25 most-streamed video games songs, “focused only on songs specifically composed for games, removing pre-existing, playlisted songs (e.g. FIFA) or promotional tracks created for championships (e.g. League of Legends).” Instrumental music from Minecraft took the top two spots (plus seventh and eighth), with songs from Doom and The Last of Us also taking multiple top 10 spots each. Clearly, the music they spend so much time hearing becomes the kind they want to hear all the time—proven by the fact that the top Minecraft sound currently has 119M streams.
As mentioned above, some Gen Z favorite games have made major music collabs, especially in recent years. The most notable, amongst the gaming community, appears to be Fortnite’s two virtual concerts featuring Marshmello in 2019, drawing 10M viewers, and Travis Scott in 2020, breaking the previous record with 12M viewers. Roblox, a favorite game of Gen Alpha, too, has also been hosting concerts with avatars of real-life music celebs, drawing 36M users to their first with Lil Nas X, and other Gen Z favs like Lizzo, Twenty One Pilots, and 24kGoldn since then. Spotify has even taken up residence in the game with Spotify Island, where they’re taking as much advantage as they can of gamers’ connection to music.
League of Legends has been a leader on music collabs for years, having a musical collaborator for their yearly World Championship since 2014, including the likes of Imagine Dragons, Zedd, PVRIS, and features from gamers within the community. But even more impressively, the brand has gone so far as to create their own virtual K-pop group made up of characters from the game.