Video games continue to hunt young people. We see it constantly, from the flickering of online games, to cosmetic item microtransactions, to the explosion of many Battles Royales in recent years.
However, data from the Italian Interactive Digital Entertainment Association (ex-AESVI) showed an increase in an often underestimated age group. Players between 45 and 64 years of age actually represent 3.9 million, or nearly a quarter of the population of Italian players (17 million in 2019).
We are talking about a group just behind the one who is between 15 and 24 years old and who often, to honor the common sentiment, seem to identify the type of player: very young and probably single. And here’s the response from a large group of over 45 audiences who play up to 7.4 hours per week, so over an hour per game.
One could easily think that they are above all casual gamers, driven by the birth of video games on mobile phones and by the generalization of smartphones. But while it is true that 10% of these people play mainly on smartphones, 11% of Italian gamers aged 45 to 64 do so on PC, where there are far fewer random productions of Candy Crush. Who wants to play this type of game does so on mobile devices, leaving the role of the PC as the platform for the more advanced experiences.
We are talking about players born between 1956 and 1985 who were therefore the “pioneers” in Italy of video game culture. It is an audience of enthusiasts or at least for the most part. We refer to the years when those who played video games were seen as losers in school and at work, when the first dedicated gaming machines were born, and to the people who fully lived through the crisis of 1983, when the clones with popular titles and too many gaming devices they had saturated the market.
It’s a diverse audience that like all other age groups includes both casual and avid gamers. As many as you can find in the younger age brackets: There are those between the ages of 15 and 24 who only play sports titles, but the corporate marketing department is seen as a much more delightful audience to be addressed very carefully.
However, this is not a purely Italian phenomenon. Germany has also seen a steady increase in the average age of players: from 31 years in 2014 to 37.5 years in 2020. The over 60 Germans who play games are over 5 million and so people are also included among the 40 and 59 year olds, that number rises to 15.8 million users. All casual gamers? Extremely unlikely.
Despite this, the market and the target of the main productions cut an audience which, for the tastes, wishes to live much more adult virtual experiences. Instead, that slice of users find themselves playing the same virtual experiences designed for people 20 or 30 years younger. Like in the cinema, they only gave superhero movies: tasty and scenic, sure, but thank goodness there are some top productions that can hit different strings. Because it is these: different sensitivities which, on paper, should find an equally diversified correspondence also in the development of video games.
Perhaps here is a key reading: Many video games are made by people who are under 50, let alone 60. The right Shigeru Miyamoto (Nintendo game designer is 68) usually finds himself in leadership positions after a long career in a company and moving away from development.
Or, tired of living in a big studio, they found their own little development house for more compact productions. In short, it seems that no production can speak to those who, to date, have experienced many games and ask for something more. These users continue to enjoy video games of many types, that’s clear, but they could try a virtual experience with a more adult flavor, just as books and movies abound in theaters.
There are games for everyone, but not everyone should be for everyone. A starting point that seems to have slipped or that maybe hasn’t weighed – or doesn’t want to weigh – the potential of an audience that wants nothing more than to enjoy a video game that can capture the nuances of adulthood.
It’s always fun to play Super Mario, but it might also be interesting to understand how the Italian plumber went through the midlife crisis, and he got through it.