Written by Adam McCann
Gaming is serious business. Globally, it’s a $159 billion industry, given an especially big boost this year from people being forced to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic. The prevalence of digital downloads makes gaming easy to access without ever leaving the house. Plus, 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, Mixer or YouTube.
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. And pro gaming, or “esports,” is growing into a viable career choice for those with the best mechanical skills. In fact, professional esports were projected to have more viewers in total than all professional sports leagues except the NFL by 2021 – and will likely achieve that this year with countless sporting events being canceled or postponed.
Some cities cater to gamers by hosting the biggest events in the industry. That includes e-sports stadiums or conventions like PAX and the Electronic Entertainment Expo, though the latter was canceled this year due to COVID-19. Others offer the opportunity to get a career through college programs and company locations.
But some places are better than others for the gamer lifestyle, so WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 20 key indicators of gamer-friendliness. Our data set ranges from average internet speed to video-game stores per capita to number of esports tournaments. We also considered factors like arcades per capita, which are indicative of gamer culture even if they are not accessible during the coronavirus pandemic. Read on for the winners, gamer advice and industry insight from a panel of experts, and our full methodology.
Best Cities for Gamers
|Overall Rank (1=Best)||City||Total Score||‘Gaming Environment’ Rank||‘Internet Quality & Coverage’ Rank||‘Gamer & Developer Opportunities’ Rank|
|2||San Diego, CA||62.19||12||5||2|
|3||New York, NY||61.33||6||10||6|
|7||San Francisco, CA||56.64||32||16||3|
|8||San Jose, CA||56.26||24||4||12|
|9||Los Angeles, CA||56.06||22||27||4|
|19||Las Vegas, NV||51.99||13||28||27|
|24||San Antonio, TX||47.84||25||26||31|
|26||Colorado Springs, CO||47.54||21||22||53|
|28||Virginia Beach, VA||46.95||56||8||61|
|29||Jersey City, NJ||46.73||44||55||11|
|32||St. Paul, MN||45.11||31||33||47|
|41||Oklahoma City, OK||42.48||38||38||86|
|42||North Las Vegas, NV||42.40||61||44||85|
|58||St. Louis, MO||39.44||62||42||42|
|59||Santa Ana, CA||39.41||43||77||33|
|68||Long Beach, CA||37.89||49||74||46|
|70||Chula Vista, CA||37.60||71||52||71|
|72||Fort Wayne, IN||36.94||93||13||87|
|80||Kansas City, MO||34.82||87||43||79|
|81||Fort Worth, TX||34.75||74||86||60|
|85||Baton Rouge, LA||33.16||63||95||35|
|89||El Paso, TX||30.83||85||87||97|
|90||New Orleans, LA||30.46||89||85||80|
|91||Corpus Christi, TX||29.98||95||79||94|
|94||San Bernardino, CA||28.93||88||90||90|
|95||St. Petersburg, FL||27.85||92||93||69|
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 his or her 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?
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 20 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 (~4.35 Points)
- Arcades per Capita*: Half Weight (~2.17 Points)
- Computer Stores per Capita*: Full Weight (~4.35 Points)
- Electronics Stores per Capita*: Full Weight (~4.35 Points)
- Share of Adults Owning a Smartphone: Full Weight (~4.35 Points)
- Share of Households Owning a Computer: Full Weight (~4.35 Points)
- “Sci-Fi & Games” MeetUps: Full Weight (~4.35 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 (~4.35 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 (~4.35 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.
- WalletHub “States Offering the Most Coronavirus Support” Score: Triple Weight (~13.04 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “States Offering the Most Coronavirus Support” ranking.
Internet Quality & Coverage – Total Points: 30
- Average Internet Speed: Double Weight (~10.00 Points)
- Share of Households with Broadband Connection: Double Weight (~10.00 Points)
- Internet Cost: Full Weight (~5.00 Points)
- Availability of 5G: Full Weight (~5.00 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 – 2019 estimates (Market Potential: GfK MRI), BandwidthPlace, MeetUp.com, Numbeo, How-To Geek, Indeed.com, Glassdoor, The Entertainment Software Association, Lake House Media, LARP List and WalletHub research.