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Today's post returns to the "gamer" debate, and if we can settle on some kind of definition to define it and the video game market.

Josh Bycer

January 18, 2017

5 Min Read

We're officially into the New Year and what better way to christen 2017 than trying to solve the gamer debate. The discussion of what is and isn't a gamer is still going on at different parts of the Internet. I started thinking about if there is a way to truly settle the debate and I think I have one.



Gamer stock photo

What is a Consumer/Gamer?

In my mind, gamers are people who are interested in supporting the Game Industry. My idea comes from one of the most important metrics to measure when it comes to multiplayer or F2P games: Retention. Retention is the measure of how many people stick around beyond the initial play. It doesn't matter if 20 million people signed up for your game day 1, to then only have 100 K stick around.

Retention means you have people who like your game enough to want to keep playing and supporting you. From that metric, I would like to define a new one to use in the Game Industry: The Gamer Metric.

Gamer: Someone who will buy or financially support three different games in the span of six months.

With that said, I couldn't find any official studies, such as the ESA reports, that gave a number regarding how many games the average consumer buys in a year. If there are any findings, I will update this metric accordingly. What this metric can show is who are fans and who are consumers or gamers.

Fans vs. Consumers:

The video game industry is similar to the car industry with how profits work. A person who only buys Ford cars is obviously not providing profit to Toyota. Someone who only supports one game or series is not a consumer of the industry as a whole, but a fan. This goes for people who only play one casual game, to those who only play Madden, Call of Duty and so on.

This is different from the Football industry. There are a lot of fans out there who only follow one team; living in Eagles territory, I can attest to that. However, the NFL will receive money no matter what team someone supports and spends money on. Someone who loves the Eagles is giving the NFL money the same way as someone who supports the Dallas Cowboys.


Candy Crush Saga (Cnet)

Focusing your attention on one and only one game may be great for the title, but bad for the market

When it comes to video games however, fans of only one particular game are not supporting the industry.

Someone who spends several hundred dollars in Farmville has no relation to anyone else in the Game Industry; just as someone who only spends money on new characters and skins in League of Legends.

I know what you're thinking, "They're still playing games, so they must be consumers, right?" Unfortunately, the answer to that is no. This goes back to an earlier post I made talking about my concerns with the state of mobile games. The problem with how mobile games were/are being marketed is that they're creating fans, not consumers.

Someone who plays nothing but Candy Crush Saga is not going to turn around and play Clash of Clans or Kim Kardashian's Hollywood. What ends up happening is we have a few mega hits that draw hundreds of thousands or even millions of fans, while everyone else is having trouble getting a piece of the pie.

In turn, it becomes harder for new games to succeed on the platform and convince someone to check out a new game. The people that mobile/casual games are marketed at aren't going to spend hundreds of dollars in one game to then do the same thing all over again. This is akin to the MMO explosion of the mid 00's and how everyone was trying to be the next WOW.

And that's why being a consumer is different than a fan and one area where video games do excel over other entertainment mediums.

A Rich Selection:

A common misconception from outsiders is that every video game is the same. Family members have complained that I should be getting tired of playing multiple games daily. Going back to Football, the rules of Football make sure that every match follows the same structure to the letter.



The diverse offering of titles prevents any one game from becoming the defacto definition of a video game

With video games, we have one of the most diverse offerings out of any industry. No one can say that Farmville is the same as Dark Souls which is the same as World of Warcraft.

Besides providing variety, this also insures that most games aren't in direct competition with each other.

Someone can buy and enjoy Stardew Valley, Undertale and Resident Evil, and get three different experiences. Even though there are still limits of time and money, they won't stop someone from playing different games. If someone wants a game bad enough, they will eventually buy it.

Consumer and Gamer-Minded:

Regarding the debate as to whether or not it's okay to use the "gamer," until we can all decide on a better term, I'm going to keep using it. To me, the terms "gamers" and "consumers" when it comes to the Game Industry are one in the same.

It's very important for developers to focus on consumers; especially in the mobile space. There is a big difference between a mobile game having millions of fans who only play their game, and having millions of consumers looking to support the market. The MMO crash of the 00's was due to designers not gauging the market and consumers correctly, and if we're not careful, things could repeat.

What do you think about the term "Gamer?" Do we need to settle on a definition, and if so, what would it be?

Check out the Critical Thought for a supplemental talk about the mobile market.

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About the Author(s)

Josh Bycer


For more than seven years, I have been researching and contributing to the field of game design. These contributions range from QA for professional game productions to writing articles for sites like Gamasutra and Quarter To Three. 

With my site Game-Wisdom our goal is to create a centralized source of critical thinking about the game industry for everyone from enthusiasts, game makers and casual fans; to examine the art and science of games. I also do video plays and analysis on my Youtube channel. I have interviewed over 500 members of the game industry around the world, and I'm a two-time author on game design with "20 Essential Games to Study" and "Game Design Deep Dive Platformers."

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