Kids pick mobile devices over PCs, consoles for gaming

Mobile devices continue their onslaught. They're now the most popular devices for gaming among kids aged 2 to 17, says research firm NPD Group.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Kids are turning more to mobile devices to play games. Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

The computer was once a dominant platform for kids who wanted to play video games. But those days seem to be long gone.

Smartphones and tablets are now the most popular devices used for gaming among children in the age range of 2 to 17, according to a report released Wednesday by the NPD Group. The report, titled "Kids and Gaming 2015," found that 63 percent of kids said they play games on a mobile device.

On the flip side, 45 percent of kids use a home PC for gaming, a drop of 22 points since 2013. The decline is most prominent among children ages 2 to 5. Video game consoles are also losing ground -- used by 60 percent of kids surveyed compared with 67 percent in 2013.

The report tells a tale we've heard before: Mobile devices reign supreme. The family computer was once the device people predominantly used to surf the Web, play games and find information. But PC sales and demand have been on a downturn the past few years as smartphones and tablets have become go-to devices. Gaming console sales remain strong, based on NPD's data. But the time spent by kids actually playing on consoles is flat as more of them pick up a mobile device to get their gaming fix.

"The largest and most surprising shift in the 2015 gaming ecosystem was kids' move away from the computer," NPD Group analyst Liam Callahan said in a press release. "In the past, the computer was considered the entry point for gaming for most kids, but the game has changed now that mobile has moved into that position. This may be related to a change in the behavior of parents that are likely utilizing mobile devices for tasks that were once reserved for computers."

Time spent on mobile devices has also risen. Around 41 percent of the kids surveyed by NPD said they spend more time playing games on mobile devices than they did a year ago, with the average amount of time per week growing to six hours.

Though the overall time spent playing on video game consoles has remained flat, the amount of time depends on the type of console. Time spent gaming on eight generation consoles such as the Nintendo Wii U, Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 has gone up. Time spent on older seventh generation consoles like the Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 has dropped compared with a year ago, NPD said.

Finally, the amount of money kids spent on digital games over the past three months climbed by $5 to $13. However, physical games are still in the lead, scooping $27 on average over the same period. And two out of ten kids polled said they spend more money on games and in-app purchases than they did a year ago.

NPD's online survey elicited responses from children ages 2 through 17, with one of their parents sitting with them to help complete the survey. NPD didn't reveal when the survey was conducted or how many children participated.