Understandably, video games traditionally haven’t played a major role in the independent retail world. It’s a category that, on the surface, doesn’t seem to demand your attention for a variety of reasons. Consoles don’t make money. Developers rake in the lion’s share of margin with their software. And the perceived target audience isn’t quite the type of clientele that you’re looking to draw into your business.
A decade or two ago, all of those statements about the video game industry would ring absolutely true. But recent data tells us that the independent retail community ought to give the gaming industry a second look.
Pop quiz, before we continue: What percentage of gamers over the age of 50 do you think game on a daily basis?
I wouldn’t blame you if your answer was somewhere around the mid-teens or even down into the single digits on that one. But here’s the truth of the matter. According to a 2023 AARP research study – a source that I’d absolutely trust on the matter – the over-50 gaming community is 52.4 million individuals strong. And, of that number, 45 percent (23.58 million) say they game every single day. And we’re not just talking about 15-minute spurts on Candy Crush. Survey respondents said that, on average, they spend about 12 hours per week playing games.
Here’s the kicker, though: The group predicts that older adults’ continued interest in gaming could lead to some $2.5 billion in sales in the next year. And that’s not on just things like consoles, software and in-app purchases. It also includes accessories like headphones, controllers, computer peripherals and microphones. And that’s just a sliver of the estimated $396.2 billion the global video game industry is projected to be worth this year, according to Statista. By 2027 that figure balloons to $533 billion.
“The gaming experience doesn’t just stop with the controller or the mouse in your hand,” Chad Bowser, vendor business manager and video game industry veteran at D&H, said during a recent Independent Thinking Podcast interview. “There is the ambiance around the lighting. You go into your gaming room. I am a nerd by trade and a nerd by life, and I was influenced by the Tron movie and I always wanted to crossover to the grid. I want to go into a room where I have the Tron experience, the lights come on and everything. And that’s all part of the gaming ambiance.”
And that’s what these 50-and-over gamers are looking to create: an exceptional gaming experience. One that they always dreamed of when they were kids, but one that they can now actually afford.
“What has changed between me being a 19-year-old gamer and me being a 50-year-old gamer is the strength of my wallet and my buying power,” Bowser added. “I had to choose ramen noodles over the latest hit coming out, and now I don’t have to do that. And I’ll tell you anyone of my age range, if they stood in line to buy their son or daughter that Nintendo Switch, they were also standing in line for themselves. Don’t let them lie to you. If you were to go right now and you see the lines, people standing outside waiting for the Nvidia graphics cards, see how old they are. I bet you there’s a real high mix of people over 50.”
In short, gaming has grown up. And, in fact, as younger generations continue to game and the industry itself evolves, so too should their desire to remain invested – personally and financially – in the category.
Where Gaming Fits with Independents
With the age aspect debunked, the other hurdle an independent dealer or integrator would have to get over is what the video game category looks like in their store, showroom or project proposal — and how can you make it a profitable venture?
“What I tell my partners is, if you sell just a console, you’re not going to be profitable,” Bowser said. “You have to sell an entire experience. You have to get your customer to buy the entire experience.”
As Bowser pointed out, gaming is much more than a wall of packaged discs and consoles. Rather, a gaming display at retail could really look more like a home office setup with more pops of RGB lighting and racecar-like chairs. Accessories would line the desk, a mini home theater setup could create the immersive audio experience. And don’t forget about the large, sweeping monitors that seemingly wrap around the user’s head. Or, maybe you want to show off some of the innovate new flexible OLED displays that can convert from a flat screen to a curved monitor in seconds (MSRP of $2,499.99, by the way). In all reality, the setup might not be too different from what a consumer electronics retailer is already showing, just re-thought out in a way that appeals more directly to the gamer.
And for the custom integrator, broaching the topic of gaming should be a natural extension of any conversation around a home entertainment room. A console could be an add-on or even act as a media server to an extent. But you have the opportunity to bring in dropdown projectors, ambient lighting and immersive audio. Beyond that, though, there’s the need for a well-networked house, so you can fold in the gaming-ready routers or mesh network systems. And then, of course, you can tie the entire experience together with a control system that with a few spoken words or the press of a button converts a room into “game mode” for the user.
“At the end of the day when I want to unwind, I want to relax, I don’t want to have to build all that myself,” Bowser said. “I want to be able to sit in my chair, push the play and go. And if someone can provide that solution for me, I’m a happier man.”
Not only has the gaming consumer grown up, but so too has the category itself. With many more margin making opportunities available today than ever before, it’s time for retailers and integrators to give gaming the attention it deserves.