Gaming is serious business. Globally, it’s a $159 billion industry, and video game sales have received a huge boost during the COVID-19 pandemic, with no signs of slowing down. Year-to-date hardware sales are already up 81% compared to the previous year, and software sales are up 18% even without including digital downloads.
There is a huge variety of ways to enjoy video games in the present day, from consoles by Nintendo, PlayStation and Microsoft to gaming PCs and mobile devices to simply watching others stream on a platform like Twitch or YouTube. Due in part to this accessibility, gaming is becoming an increasingly common hobby in the U.S. According to the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of male Americans aged 18-29 play video games “often” or “sometimes,” as do 49 percent of female Americans in the same age range.
Some cities cater to gamers by hosting the biggest events in the industry. That includes matches at e-sports stadiums or gaming conventions, though many such events have been canceled due to COVID-19. Other cities offer the opportunity to get a career in the video game industry through college programs and company locations.
In order to determine the best cities for gamers, WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 22 key indicators of gamer-friendliness. Our data set ranges from average internet speed to video-game stores per capita to number of esports tournaments.
Best Cities for Gamers
|Overall Rank||City||Total Score||Gaming Environment||Internet Quality & Coverage||Gamer & Developer Opportunities|
|3||San Francisco, CA||64.88||5||27||3|
|8||San Diego, CA||58.44||10||18||11|
|10||San Jose, CA||57.71||15||14||12|
|11||Los Angeles, CA||57.67||19||63||2|
|20||New York, NY||52.62||42||37||8|
|21||Virginia Beach, VA||52.50||52||2||57|
|24||Chula Vista, CA||50.88||51||7||25|
|26||Santa Ana, CA||50.35||22||43||21|
|27||Long Beach, CA||49.91||24||35||30|
|30||Jersey City, NJ||48.18||59||19||22|
|33||Las Vegas, NV||47.48||32||48||26|
|50||Fort Worth, TX||43.16||54||61||52|
|54||Kansas City, MO||42.50||61||40||55|
|56||North Las Vegas, NV||42.28||77||16||74|
|60||San Antonio, TX||41.83||46||68||41|
|63||Oklahoma City, OK||40.65||45||74||82|
|64||Fort Wayne, IN||40.31||91||12||84|
|66||St. Paul, MN||39.44||64||65||37|
|72||Colorado Springs, CO||38.44||87||42||44|
|73||San Bernardino, CA||38.19||72||58||99|
|81||St. Petersburg, FL||36.22||93||67||39|
|87||Corpus Christi, TX||35.36||94||57||91|
|89||St. Louis, MO||34.81||90||80||33|
|92||El Paso, TX||34.14||80||78||95|
|93||Baton Rouge, LA||33.90||79||84||63|
|94||New Orleans, LA||32.63||67||94||75|
Note: With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that city, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.
Gaming can be both an expensive and a time-consuming habit. For advice on maintaining a healthy gaming lifestyle and insight on the industry, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What tips do you have for someone who wishes to indulge their gamer habits without breaking the bank?
- What tips do you have for parents looking to monitor video-game content and prevent children from spending too much time playing video games?
- Which is more cost effective: a subscription model akin to Netflix that allows users to access a catalog of games or purchasing games individually?
- Do you believe the popularity of esports will continue to rise? Will it ever rival major sports leagues such as the NFL or MLB?
- Should esports betting be regulated differently than sports betting in general?
- Despite the current economic crisis, the video game industry is thriving. What will be the long-term impact on the landscape of this industry?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the best cities for gamers, WalletHub compared 100 of the most populated U.S. cities across three key dimensions: 1) Gaming Environment, 2) Internet Quality & Coverage and 3) Gamer & Developer Opportunities.
We examined those dimensions using 22 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for gamers. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), the square root of the population was used to calculate the “Number of Residents” in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
We then determined each city’s based weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Note: Some metrics, such as video game stores per capita and arcades per capita, were included because they demonstrate a city’s gamer culture, even if they are not currently open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gaming Environment – Total Points: 50
- Video-Game Stores per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.23 Points)
- Arcades per Capita*: Half Weight (~1.61 Points)
- Computer Stores per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.23 Points)
- Electronics Stores per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.23 Points)
- Share of Adults Owning a Smartphone: Full Weight (~3.23 Points)
- Share of Households Owning a Computer: Full Weight (~3.23 Points)
- Number of Annual Comic-Book, Video-Game, Anime, and Sci-Fi/Fantasy Conventions: Full Weight (~3.23 Points)
- “Sci-Fi & Games” MeetUps: Full Weight (~3.23 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of “Sci-Fi & Games” MeetUp groups per number of adults aged 18 to 49.
- Number of LARP (live-action-role-playing) Groups per Capita: Full Weight (~3.23 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of “LARP” groups per number of adults aged 18 to 49.
- Share of Population Aged 18 to 49: Full Weight (~3.23 Points)
Note: The average age of the U.S. gamer is 35, which is the same for male gamers, according to the Entertainment Software Association. The average age of the most frequent female gamer is 44.
- Average Daily COVID-19 Deaths in the Past Week per Capita: Double Weight (~6.45 Points)
- Average Daily COVID-19 Cases in the Past Week per Capita: Double Weight (~6.45 Points)
- Percentage of Residents Who Are Fully Vaccinated: Double Weight (~6.45 Points)
Internet Quality & Coverage – Total Points: 30
- Average Internet Speed: Double Weight (~12.00 Points)
- Share of Households with Broadband Connection: Double Weight (~12.00 Points)
- Internet Cost: Full Weight (~6.00 Points)
Gamer & Developer Opportunities – Total Points: 20
- Video-Game Job Openings per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
- Video-Game Jobs Internships per 100,000 Civilian Population in Labor Force: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
- Share of Video-Game Industry-Related Employment: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
- Number of Video-Game College Programs: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
- Number of Video-Game Companies: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
- Presence on “Top 50 Best Game Design Schools & Colleges” Ranking: Half Weight (~1.82 Points)
Note: This metric is based on the ranking by gamedesigning.org.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Yelp.com, Esri's Updated Demographics - 2020 estimates (Market Potential: GfK MRI), BandwidthPlace, MeetUp.com, Numbeo, Indeed.com, Glassdoor, The Entertainment Software Association, Lake House Media, LARP List, UpcomingCons, Convention Scene, VideoGameCons, The New York Times, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and WalletHub research.
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