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Gaming is big right now. Like, huge.

Popular games can earn more than box office hits, in-game virtual concerts pull in a ton of views, and Gen Z/millennials are actually spending more time on their consoles post pandemic.

When you want to talk about consumer power, gamers are the group to watch. 

Because this diverse audience is so massive, getting a deeper understanding of their world helps brands identify opportunities they might miss otherwise. The question is how?

That’s where we come in. We’ve dug into the data to uncover the answers to these burning questions:

  • What’s the most popular video game genre in 2023?
  • Which gaming franchises are most popular with consumers?
  • What are the top gaming franchises by generation?
  • What are the top gaming genres by generation? 

If you’re ready to connect with gamers, let’s press start. 

What’s the most popular video game genre in 2023?

Our most recent data shows that gamers are locked and loaded when it comes to shooter games. In Q3 2022, shooter was the most played gaming genre, with 57% of consumers saying they played at least one shooter game in the past 12 months. 

That’s right on target with expectations, as shooters have been the most popular genre in the gaming industry for the last five years running. Often considered a subgenre of action, shooter games test players’ speed and reaction, where their main purpose is to eliminate opponents and complete missions without being taken out by an enemy.   

The second most popular gaming genre is action/adventure (54% say they’ve played this in the last 12 months) followed by sports (39%), racing (39%), and puzzle games/platform (37%).  

The popularity of these games goes beyond the console. Take the 2013 action/adventure game “The Last of Us” for example. This was recently turned into a TV series by HBO Max that became their second-largest debuting series, with an impressive 4.7 million viewers across linear TV and their streaming platform. Plus, it’s all anyone’s talking about right now. Like, seriously. 

Now that’s what we call fan engagement. 

What are the top gaming genres by generation?

You know how they say “different strokes for different folks”? The same goes for gamers.

Although shooters are the most popular gaming genre among global consumers, there are some notable differences across age groups. Let’s take a look at why.  

Based on our data, we can see that both Gen Z’s and millennials’ biggest motivation for gaming is good old-fashioned fun, followed by relaxing or unwinding. 

This changes up a bit when we get to Gen X. Their main motivation for gameplay is to relax or unwind, followed by fun, which may explain their preference for puzzle/platform games, their third favorite genre.

Want to get even more granular? We got you. Here’s our breakdown of favorite gaming genres by generation.

Let’s start with Gen Z. Their favorite gaming genre is shooters at 66%, closely followed by action/adventure games at 62%. There’s a bit of drop before their next group of favorites which are simulation games (43%), multiplayer online battle arena (42%), and sports games (41%).

Just like their younger counterparts, millennials favorite genre is shooters at 62%, with action/adventure coming in second at 58%. Racing and sports games are tied in next place at 44%, and simulation games come in last at 42%.

For Gen X, action/adventure games and shooters are tied as the top favorite at 46%. Puzzle and platform games make their debut as a gamer favorite with this generation at 35%, closely followed by sports (34%) and racing (33%).  

Which gaming franchises are the most popular?

When it comes to favorite franchises, gamers are into shooting – both opponents and soccer balls.

In Q3 2022, Call of Duty (CoD) was the most played franchise, with 21% of gamers saying they played this first-person shooter video game within the past 12 months. 

What’s behind CoD’s massive success? Its mobile gaming debut in 2019 is likely to have helped to cement its popularity. In just one day, the game reached 1 million downloads. With 81% of gamers using smartphones to play, going mobile may be what keeps this classic game in the spotlight for many years to come. 

FIFA ties with CoD at 21%. Even though there was a general lack of excitement surrounding the World Cup last year, FIFA remains a firm favorite among gamers. EA’s latest FIFA 23 release recently took first place on the European retail charts as the best-selling game in January. 

Other popular franchises over the last 12 months include Minecraft (19%), Mario (17%), Player Unknown’s Battleground (PUBG) (16%), and League of Legends (15%). 

What are the top gaming franchises by generation?

For Gen Z, their favorite franchise aligns with their genre preferences, with Call of Duty coming in at number one. For millennials and Gen X, FIFA takes the top spot. 

Here’s a breakdown of the trending franchises by generation. 

Gen Z’s favorite game franchises: 

  1. 26% – Call of Duty 
  2. 26% – Minecraft 
  3. 23% – PUBG (Player Unknown’s Battleground)
  4. 23% – FIFA 
  5. 21% – Grand Theft Auto 

Millennials’ favorite game franchises: 

  1. 23% – FIFA
  2. 23% – Call of Duty 
  3. 20% – Mario 
  4. 18% – League of Legends
  5. 17% – PUBG (Player Unknown’s Battleground)

Gen X’s favorite game franchises: 

  1. 18% – FIFA 
  2. 15% – Call of Duty 
  3. 15% – Mario 
  4. 15% – Minecraft 
  5. 11% – Fortnite

Put this in your back pocket

The key thing for brands to remember is: gamers aren’t just playing games. They’re consumers, too. 

They watch live gaming videos on streaming platforms, share images and videos of their gameplay on social media, and purchase in-game features to show off to their friends. 

The point is, gamers are complex consumers with multiple hobbies and habits that provide a lot of unexpected opportunities for brands.

As our trends manger, Tom Morris, explains: “It’s important to note that not all gamers will respond in the same way, but refusing to treat this audience with nuance means missing out on an opportunity that’s too good to miss.”

Bottom line? Being able to tap into gamers’ interests and follow their lead is the key to success for any brand hoping to engage this huge global community.

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