What you need to know

Despite an influx of free games, video game sales continue to climb as gamers look to invest in higher-quality gameplay. The growth of the gaming audience and the launch of new consoles should further encourage gaming spending in 2021 and beyond. Video game purchasers know what they want but they don’t really care where they get it, as long as they can pay a fair price. There is potential for the resale market to make a comeback as patient purchasers are willing to wait for a good value in their games.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and the video game retail market

  • The impact of free games and next-generation consoles on video game sales

  • Where people purchase games and how that’s changing

  • How to overcome retailer indifference among video game purchasers

This Report was written in December 2020. Consumer research was fielded in October 2020 and thus reflects consumer attitudes in the pandemic environment.


This Report covers how, where and why people buy video games. Video game sales include both physical disc purchases and digital downloads for mobile, console and computer games. A video game purchaser is an adult aged 18+ who has purchased a video game in the past six months.

COVID-19: market context

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global health pandemic, and on March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency in the US.

Across the US, state-level stay-at-home orders rolled out throughout the months of March and April, remaining in place through May, and in some cases June. During this time, referred to as lockdown, nonessential businesses and school districts across the nation closed or shifted to remote operations. Video game spending continued throughout this period as players had more time to play games and spent more money acquiring new ones.

During re-emergence, all 50 states have relaxed stay-at-home orders and allowed businesses to operate with varying levels of social distancing measures in place. The continued spread of COVID-19 infections has driven some states to slow down or reverse course on reopening plans. Mintel anticipates the US will remain in a state of flux through 2021, until a vaccine is available and fully distributed.

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