Apple demoed the iPhone 5S with a game because kids are dumping PCs and consoles for gaming

For mobile gaming companies, the key is to hook ’em young.
For mobile gaming companies, the key is to hook ’em young.
Image: AP Photo/Stephen Brashear
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Why did Apple give so much time in its announcement of the new iPhone 5S to a demo of a game, Infinity Blade 3, when the primary consumers of a phone as pricey as the new iPhone 5S are likely to be adults?

The answer is two-fold: First, most gamers are in fact adults, so Apple knows who it is targeting. And those adults are such ardent fans of mobile gaming that Juniper Research predicts that mobile devices will be the “primary screen” for gaming by 2016, leading to new categories of games, a shift in interest by game developers and unexpected cultural shifts in places like China.

The second reason is that, as gaming is moving from PCs and consoles (like the Xbox) onto mobile devices, an entire generation of kids—i.e. future iPhone buyers—is now more likely than ever to equate mobile with games.

As of 2013, a just-released survey by NPD Group reveals that “almost as many” kids are gaming on mobile devices as on PCs and consoles. (NPD did not issue exact numbers, but Quartz has asked them to clarify.) Just as importantly, the number of kids gaming on mobile devices is up, and the amount of time spent gaming is increasing.

Since 2011, the average age at which kids start gaming on a mobile device has dropped a year, from 9 to 8, and the amount of time spent gaming among teens (age 12 to 17) has increased 40%, from five to seven hours per week.

NPD attributes these increases to the fact that kids are getting hand-me-down mobile devices from adults and older siblings. Which means today’s brand new iPhone 5S is tomorrow’s killer gaming rig for a kid who would otherwise be spending that time playing games on a PC or console.