What you need to know

Console gaming has taken on a particular importance for both new as well as established players since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nintendo Switch has diversified the console gaming audience with relaxing family-friendly gameplay, while the arrivals of the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S satisfy more dedicated, action-oriented gamers’ needs. Console players are some of the most dedicated players, making it essential for gaming and non-gaming brands to understand their needs and wants to reach them.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • How the COVID-19 pandemic has changed console gaming behaviors and attitudes

  • What will change about gameplay and video game expectations with the arrival of next generation consoles

  • How Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox reach different corners of the console gaming market

  • What will happen to older consoles and the resale market as new consoles hit shelves


Mintel defines dedicated gaming consoles as devices primarily used to play video games, most notably from Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo. Portable gaming devices whose primary use is playing video games (ie Nintendo Switch) are also included in the scope of this Report. Devices that can be used for video games but primarily serve other functions (ie computers, mobile devices) are not included.

Mintel uses the following terms throughout this Report:

  • Next generation console: This refers to the latest consoles released by PlayStation (PlayStation 5 disc and digital) and Xbox (Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S)

  • Hybrid console: This refers to consoles that can be used as a home console or as a portable console, most notably the Nintendo Switch

Market context

The PS5 and Xbox Series X/S were both released in November 2020. Data for this Report was collected in February 2021, and the Report was written in March 2021. Reports of updates to the Nintendo Switch console at the end of 2021 have been rumored but not confirmed. Microsoft’s acquisition of video game publisher and developer ZeniMax Media was finalized in March 2021.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on CBO estimates released on February 1, 2021. The CBO’s previous forecast for US GDP to fall by 5.8% in 2020 was revised after a stronger second half of the year, and the updated estimate indicates negative 3.5% GDP for the year. The CBO forecast for GDP to grow by 4.6% in 2021 and unemployment to continue to fall to average 5.7% for the year do not take into consideration the impact of the $1.9 trillion economic relief package, which is expected to further boost growth.

COVID-19: US context

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. It was declared a global health pandemic and national emergency in early March 2020. Across the US, various stay-at-home orders were put in place in Spring 2020, and nonessential businesses and school districts closed or shifted to remote operations. The remainder of 2020 saw rolling orders, as states and local governments relaxed and reinforced guidelines according to the spread of the virus in each region.

Vaccine roll-out began in December 2020. Based on current estimates of vaccine production and distribution, the US could reach herd immunity, with 70-85% of the population vaccinated, by late Summer to early Fall 2021. Mintel anticipates business operations in the US will remain in a state of flux through 2021 as the vaccine is widely administered.

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