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Online gaming - statistics & facts

The global digital media market has consistently been growing, with gaming accounting for the biggest share of market revenues. In 2020, the global online gaming market generated approximately 21.1 billion U.S. dollars in revenues, which translates to a record 21.9 percent growth compared to the previous year. This boost was of course due to the global COVID-19 outbreak, which forced many people to stay at home and turn to digital avenues of entertainment and find new channels to connect with others. Currently, there are an estimated 1 billion online gamers worldwide with China, South Korea, and Japan having the biggest online gaming reach among the population. In 2025, online gaming audiences are projected to surpass 1.3 billion.

The recent evolution of the online gaming genre

Despite this recent surge in prominence, online gaming has already been evolving over the past years. From classic PC and console-based online gaming genres such as massively multiplayer games (MMO gaming) and competitive first-person shooters, online gaming has seen a boost around the early 2010s when casual social gaming became popular. During the same period, free-to-play (F2P) multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), such as Dota2, League of Legends and Dota 2 gained mainstream popularity.
As mobile connectivity and smartphone ownership increased in recent years, so did online gaming possibilities for a whole range of new gaming audiences who do not have to rely on expensive PCs, consoles, or subscriptions to play with other people. As the market for traditional online gaming titles is shrinking, cross-platform titles with focus on mobile are currently the ones pushing the genre forward. The most popular online gaming format right now is battle royale games. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), Fortnite Battle Royale, and Apex Legends generated tens of millions of players within months of their release and most recent prominent genre entry Call of Duty: Warzone has claimed 100 million players as of April 2021, a mere 13 months after release.

Online gaming behavior

Many U.S. gamers reported positive experiences while online gaming, the most common ones being making friends and helping other players. Gamers cited World of Warcraft and Minecraft as the gaming environments with the most positive social experiences. On the flipside, online harassment while online gaming was equally as common – from offensive name-calling and trolling to physical threats, to the severe threats of stalking and doxing. The impact of bad player behavior is severe – gamers who experienced online harassment felt less social and upset after playing, while some even had personal relationships disrupted and school or work performances impacted. As such, interactions with other players can make or break the enjoyment of online gaming and the anonymity of digital environments is not without risks.

COVID-19 impact on online gaming

A July 2020 survey found that a significant share of new gamers in several countries who took up gaming during the coronavirus pandemic reported that they were open to gaming as a social activity. Gamers in Europe also reported that during COVID-19 lockdown, multiplayer online games in particular had made them feel happier, and lessened their feelings of isolation and anxiety. Another survey of global gaming audiences found that six in ten gamers reported to having increased their frequency of playing online multiplayer games during the pandemic. Due to the related increase in new gamers, casual indie titles like Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout and Among Us gained immense popularity during the year. Digital gaming platform Roblox also became a popular digital hangout spot for young gamers.


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