Consumer Insights: ‘The State of Kids and Gaming’

by Katie Bessiere, Research, Nickelodeon

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Nickelodeon has long recognized that gaming is an integral part of daily life for today’s youth.  In “The State of Kids and Gaming,” a study among 6- to 13-year-olds, Nickelodeon investigated the current gaming landscape including kids’ motivations, behaviors and attitudes toward video games on multiple platforms. Nickelodeon, in partnership with Smarty Pants, uncovered expectations and preferences across three gaming platforms: console, online, and handheld.

Key Findings

State of the Game

  • While all kids have their preference, most kids enjoy all three gaming platforms – online, handheld and console, all of which continue to play a critical role in kids’ lives.
  • Across all platforms, the majority of kids find that gaming is “fun” and “exciting.” Kids are happy to game on whatever device is available and convenient at the time.

Gaming Trends

Handhelds & Tablets: Handheld devices give kids the control and independence they seek. Personal ownership, control over game choice and indepdent play – combined with fresh, fun content that is quick to play and cheap to acquire – deliver an experience other platforms just can’t match.

  • Tablets have become the preferred gaming device for all kids aged 6-7 and girls aged 8-13, with 83% saying that they like playing games on tablets “really a lot” or “really really a lot.”
  • In addition to an overall “cool” factor, tablets give kids exactly what they want: a big screen, ease of use, great graphics and endless variety.

Consoles Still the Most Robust: With the most exciting titles, realistic graphics and immersive experience, consoles are the preferred platform for the most diehard gamers: boys 8+. They also offer the most flexible play as kids can compete and collaborate with others both in-person and remotely.

Online Still the Most Common: Despite the popularity of mobile gaming and the passion for consoles, kids continue to have the most steady diet of online gaming.

A Look at Each Platform

Console Gaming Is…

o    The Best: For many, especially boys 8+, nothing beats it.

o    Immersive: Consoles offer an experience far beyond what’s available elsewhere; kids can truly “escape” into console titles, living out their fantasies.

o    Competitive: Driven by competition, both against themselves and others – console gamers take leveling up and earning exclusives (and the bragging rights) seriously.

o    Social: In-person and remote social play are easily accomplished and allow for play regardless of whether you’re alone or not.

o    A Gamer’s Paradise: Realistic graphics, immersive stories and title variety offer kids the most complete gaming experience.

When playing with consoles, kids expect to play with friends and family in the same room; to play with others remotely; to escape from reality; to be “cool” or fit in; independence; passion for the device; variety and challenge.

Across consoles, the most popular game categories are racing, city/world building, puzzle, arcade and brain games.
Handheld Gaming Is…

o    Fast: Titles are quick and easy to acquire and faster to play/less in-depth than those on other platforms.

o    Fresh: Low cost games with a simple purchase process make it easy to try something new; over half of tablet and smartphone users get new games weekly.

o    Accessible: Size and lack of cord make handhelds incredibly portable – personal ownership and high parent permission also make handhelds a compelling gaming option.

o    Filler: Accessibility, along with titles that are easy to play in spurts, make handhelds a natural choice for killing boredom wherever, whenever.

o    Personal: Designed for one player, most kids don’t use the WiFi feature, resulting in a very solitary experience.

When gaming on a handheld device, kids expect independence; to be “cool” or fit in; passion for the device; a good gaming experience; and a boredom buster.

Among users of all handheld gaming devices, puzzle and arcade games are most popular.

Online Gaming Is…

o    Pervasive: Much like TVs, computers are centrally located in the home – as such, access to online games surpasses all other platforms.

o    Varied: A deeper and broader library of free games means each kid can find his ideal experience – and find new ones as often as he wants.

o    Social: Remote interactive play has become a key element of online gaming.

o    Immersive: Home of the virtual world, online gaming lets kids be a part of something bigger as well as play in shorter intervals.

The most popular online game categories are similar to those of smartphones and tablets, with kids primarily playing puzzle, brain, city/world building and arcade games. However, games centered on virtual worlds are unique to online gaming.

Kids expect social play; variety; escape/avoidance; creativity and imagination; clear goals and accomplishments; getting deep into the game; and connections with their favorite characters.


As in years past, kids generally focus on the content. But as devices have evolved, kids have more choices than ever when it comes to both content and device, allowing kids to choose not only based on what game they want to play but what device they can or want to access at any given moment. As such, each platform offers different experiences and fits into kids’ lifestyles in distinct ways. Content creators, product developers and marketers can best serve their consumers by looking at the state of gaming most holistically, considering both content and device.

The Methodology

This study was based on qualitative research, including gaming digital diaries and ethnographies in New York, Chicago, Charlotte and San Diego, as well as quantitative research, including an online survey with 2,275 respondents ages 6-13.

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