US study reveals kids want subscriptions and virtual currency for Christmas, not actual games

Physical games rank poorly as coveted gifts for children this Christmas, per a new study.
christmas gift trends game subscriptions

A new study by the US Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has canvassed the Christmas wishlists of kids in the United States aged 10-17 to reveal surprising trends around game-related gifts. As it turns out, where physical games and consoles previously dominated these lists, modern kids seem to prefer gifts related to game subscriptions and virtual in-game currencies for ongoing games.

From a survey batch of 501 kids, the top five video game-related asks were for game subscriptions (39%), game consoles (38%), gaming accessories (32%), and in-game currency (29%), with physical video games only appearing in the asks of 22% of participants.

While only a small survey batch, the trends suggest that game subscriptions like PlayStation Plus, Xbox Game Pass, and Nintendo Switch Online – many of which allow online and social play with friends – are high priorities for younger generations of gaming fans. Likewise, 29% of respondents asking for in-game currency also suggests a greater devotion to ongoing games – potentially, although not specifically, titles like Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft.

Adults surveyed claimed they would spend an average of around US $485 on video game-related presents for their children – an average which is presumably brought up by the popularity of new consoles like the PlayStation 5, and the Xbox Series X/S.

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The ESA survey revealed that of the children interviewed, video games were one of the most popular overall asks for Christmas – with 59% of girls asking for video game gifts, and 86% of boys asking for the same. Per ESA analysis, fewer wish lists in 2023 will include items like physical toys, tickets or experiences, arts and crafts, and books.

As the ESA states, the survey is a good chance for parental reflection as the holiday season approaches, particularly when it comes to buying appropriate and desired gifts for children. To that end, the organisation has encouraged parents to check age ratings for any games purchased as gifts, while also noting whether the “in-game purchases” label appears on them.

Any title with in-game purchases will allow users to spend more money on games, in ways that can occasionally be predatory – so it’s best for parents to be aware of these labels on all games. In recent years, loot boxes have come under particular scrutiny, with many commentators suggesting their sale be limited to those over the age of 18.

Should a game include these warnings on the label, the ESA has encouraged parents to implement console parental controls, and to have conversations with their children around safety and responsibility when playing games, and spending virtual currencies.

You can view the full results of the ESA survey on the organisation’s website.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.