Forget about books, TV or even music. Gaming is rapidly becoming the go-to leisure pursuit across Canada. That’s according to data from Statista, which shows that 74.5 percent of Canadians play video games. The survey data was gathered in March 2023 and shows a significant increase from 64 percent in 2018.
Let’s take a closer look at what is becoming the most important leisure sector in Canada, including what games people are playing, how they are playing them and who is providing them.
Mobile gaming is the future – and the present
Ever since smartphones started to become seriously smart, there has been talk about the mobile revolution. The truth is, mobile’s domination is already an established fact, and we could as accurately talk about the mobile status quo.
Smartphone penetration in Canada stands at 85 percent and has yet to plateau. Bearing that in mind, it is no surprise that more than 50 percent of gamers cite mobile as their platform of choice. It is easy to envisage casual gamers who would not go out of their way to buy a console and games, but are content to instal free games on their phones.
Action / Adventure and sport top the downloads
Another survey, commissioned by the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, did a deep dive into the types of games that Canadians are playing. The top rated genre was “action/adventure” which encompasses titles like Modern Combat and Tomb Raider.
Sport games come a close second. Games like Madden NFL and FIFA Mobile have been around for years, and their popularity spiked among mobile players in 2020 when real sport was put on hold. It is fair to assume that plenty of older sports fans who remember playing these games on their SEGAs in the 1990s chose to revisit them during those strange times and found a renewed interest in gaming.
Casino games represent a special case in Canada
The third most popular genre according to the download statistics is casino games. However, that only tells half a story. Most of the Canadian online casinos listed at onlinecasinolist.com/ca/, for example, have mobile browser apps instead of native apps. That is to say you access the casino site by visiting the website from your mobile browser instead of downloading an app.
This skews the statistics somewhat, and means mobile casinos are most likely rated higher than third. Their popularity has certainly increased over the past year, in the wake of Ontario opening up its online casino market. It has issued operator licenses to 58 casinos to date, and that is a number that will continue to rise.
Canadian studios reaping the rewards
Despite the popularity of imported games such as those already mentioned, Canada’s domestic gaming studios are also reaping the rewards of mobile gaming’s ever-expanding profile. There are almost 2,000 game publishers active in Canada, ranging from well known challengers to the global leaders such as Budge Studios and Jam City Inc all the way down to the scores of freelance game designers and micro studios set up from home.
The Canadian gaming industry employs more than 32,000 people and reported total turnover of $5 billion in 2022. That is predicted to rise to almost $5.5 billion in 2023. Those are impressive numbers for an industry in which the vast majority of games that are made are free to download and play. So just how does the Canadian gaming industry make money?
13 percent of Canadian-made mobile games are paid, which is significantly higher than the global average, which is four percent. Nevertheless, this still forms a minority proportion of gaming revenue. 35 percent monetize through in-app purchases. This involves players buying special privileges, features, power-ups and so on. Again, this is higher than the global average of 20 percent. The main source of monetization is advertisements. 65 percent of Canadian games include ads. That’s lower than the global average of 72 percent, but it still constitutes the primary source of revenue.
Canadian game companies generally show a greater sensitivity to the fact that most people find ads intrusive and annoying. A growing number are finding less obtrusive ways to incorporate their ads than the conventional pop ups and banners. For example, some offer players the opportunity to view an ad and be rewarded with in-game currency or some other reward. When players proactively elect to view an ad they are more inclined to pay attention to it than if it is imposed upon them, so this benefits the game, the advertiser and the user.