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Video game industry grew 4 times faster than US economy in 2012, study says

The games industry continues to boom while other sectors of the economy sputter, according to a new report from the Entertainment Software Association.

Market researchers expect game industry software sales to be a $100 billion business by 2018. Getty Images

The video game market is alive and thriving, and you can thank smartphones for its growth.

Mobile gaming, through titles like Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans, has turned all device owners into potential players. And US consumers have responded with the gift that keeps on giving: money.

The US video game industry grew 9.6 percent from 2009 to 2012, to add $6.2 billion to the US economy. That's four times faster than the entire US economy, according to a new report from industry trade group, the Entertainment Software Association.

The rise in mobile gaming makes sense, given the worldwide growth in smartphones. About 1.75 billion people around the world will have smartphones by the end of the year, up from 1 billion two years ago, according to research company eMarketer.

That surge in mobile gaming could have broad economic benefits, said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. It could also be a boon for employment. "There are so many games for mobile phones and tablets, there will continue to be jobs," he said. "Job growth will continue to vastly outpace the US economy."

Game industry employment is certainly becoming more attractive, the ESA said. Around 42,000 people now work in the US games industry, up 30 percent from 2009. The average salary for games employees has grown 5.3 percent, to $94,427 a year, from 2009 to 2012, while average US household income fell .84 percent to $51,759 in the same period.

The worldwide software games business is expected to grow about 59 percent to $100 billion worldwide by 2018, up from $63 billion this year, according to market researcher DFC Intelligence. Mobile's share of that pie is expected to jump from 15 percent to around 30 percent.