January 20th, 2022

Who Is the Modern Mobile Gamer™? Insights From 5 Years of Consumer Research

alt Lauren Baca


MMG 5 year anniversary


On the fifth anniversary of the Modern Mobile Gamer™ series, Tapjoy reflects on the journey with this savvy group of consumers.

Since 2017, we here at Tapjoy have been interviewing tens of thousands of mobile gamers to understand their feelings on everything from freemium apps to DTC brands. Now to kick off 2022, we’re taking a look back at everything we’ve learned on the anniversary of the series’ inception.

The Modern Mobile Gamer™ reports have evolved substantially since they began five years ago. Each of the nine reports focused on a different series of questions to divine how people use their smartphones, and how they feel about the advertising they see every day while they use them.

Modern Mobile Gamer™ through the years

In 2017, the first Modern Mobile Gamer Report™ focused on consumers’ understanding of the freemium app ecosystem — and we found that 80% of consumers prefer rewarded ads to non-rewarded ads. The series returned in 2019, interviewing 18,000 survey respondents, and dug deep into three market segments: Millennials, Parents, and High-Income Earners. What did we learn? 69% of consumers say they would rather give up social media or TV than mobile gaming. In 2020, we focused on direct to consumer (DTC) brands. We expanded our research to cover four personas: Millennials, Gen Z, Parents, and High Income Earners. A key finding was that 70% of mobile consumers were interested in trying a new subscription product or service.

In 2021, we elevated the series to a new level, releasing not just one but four full-length reports covering each persona in-depth. For the first time, we looked at Gen X consumer preferences alongside Millennials, Gen Z, and Parents. So how did these three generations and one demographic respond? Let’s find out.

Generation Z

Generation Z were raised in a world that never knew a time without smartphones. 83% of this post-1997 cohort started using smartphones before they turned 18. 

Gen Z has a strong attachment to their devices, with 82% of the more than 7,000 people we surveyed playing mobile games often. 43% said they play mobile games twice a day during the holidays (what else is there to do when you’re snowed in?), and 55% say they’re actively looking for new mobile games to play. 

This natively mobile generation also showed a strong predilection towards online shopping, with 68% of them shopping online through their phones 1-4 times a week. 52% say they discover new brands and products through social media — a number that Instagram brands will doubtless be happy to hear.


Everyone’s favorite hair-side-parted, skinny-jeans-wearing generation, the Millennials, also demonstrated just how at home they are with their phones. 

With 5000 survey respondents, we learned that 70% play mobile games daily, and 67% said social media was their favorite mobile activity. Truly, the doomscrolling generation. 86% use smartphones for gaming, and 73% shop on mobile 1-4 times a week. 

Unsurprisingly for a generation raised on the realization of climate change and economic turmoil, Millennials care about the environmental and ethical side of their purchases, with fully half saying they consider sustainability and environmental awareness an important brand value.

Generation X

Generation X is the newest persona we’ve looked at in the Modern Mobile Gamer™ report. Covering those born between 1965 and 1980, they represent a demographic often ignored by the discourse — and it’s worth noting that Gen X wields $2.4 trillion in buying power thanks to its higher-than-average household income. While 73% didn’t use the internet until they were 18 or older, 60% first used smartphones between the ages of 25-44. 

Gen X are avid mobile gamers, 90% use mobile as a gaming platform, and 77% play mobile games in a typical day, while 45% are actively looking for new mobile games. 

Gen X also appreciates the convenience of mobile shopping, as 72% said shop on mobile 1-4 times a week, 49% holiday shop on Black Friday/Cyber Monday, 38% complete rewarded ad offers every day.


The final persona the Modern Mobile Gamer™ report for 2021 examined is Parents. Unlike the other personas, Parents could be any age, and as a demographic they’re tech savvy, and rely on their smartphones to help them manage hectic schedules. 77% of respondents told us they were employed, and 57% of them replace their smartphones every 2-3 years. 

A whopping 90% of Parents use their smartphones for mobile gaming (look, peewee soccer isn’t that entertaining to watch from the sidelines, I’m sorry), and 75% shop on mobile 1-4 times a week. 

Parents are also particularly receptive to the mobile ad ecosystem, as 55% prefer humorous brand content, 55% prefer rewarded ads to other types of mobile ads, 40% complete rewarded offers daily.

What’s next

The Modern Mobile Gamer™ reports have given us an unparalleled level of understanding about how modern consumers game, shop, and think about advertising. Across these thousands of respondents, we’ve learned that almost everyone plays games and buys products using their phone, regardless of how old they are, and that there’s a strong preference for rewarded ads for most people. And there’s more to come from Modern Mobile Gamer™ reports, as we roll into 2022 asking new and interesting questions about how consumers engage on mobile and beyond.

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