By 2019, half of all internet users in the UK will be playing games digitally at least once a month, according to eMarketer’s first ever UK online gaming forecast.

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eMarketer estimates there will be 42.7 million smartphone users in the UK this year

Digital gaming penetration, which includes mobile, social and online console gaming, will reach 48.6% of the country’s internet users in 2017, equating to 26.4 million people.

The increase in online gaming has run in parallel to the rise in smartphone adoption and social networking. These cultural shifts helped bring new gaming audiences to the fore, including females and older adults.

eMarketer senior analyst Bill Fisher said much digital gaming growth is being driven by new segments of the population taking up the practice. “No longer the preserve of a hardcore (stereotyped) demographic of young males, digital gaming now extends out across mobile and social channels, with age groups more prevalent on those channels – such as female and older consumers – boosting the figure. Indeed, of the digital gaming population, far greater proportions play on their smartphones and on social channels than do so on consoles.”do so on consoles.”

eMarketer estimates that there will be 42.7 million smartphone users in the UK this year, which will represent almost four-fifths of internet users and 64.3% of the population. And 54.1% of those smartphone users, or 23.1 million, will play digital games on their devices at least monthly.

Online gaming is not just about smartphones, though. An estimated 18.4 million UK tablet users will play games on their devices in 2017. Next year, that total will reach 20 million; more than half of the country’s tablet users.

“Tablet users are made up of a slightly older user base than the smartphone market”

Fisher said on who plays what: “Our demographic breakouts for smartphone, tablet and PC use tend to play out along certain lines that are likely followed by digital gaming trends. So females are big smartphone and social media users, for example, and thus the smartphone and social gamer numbers are likely to be more heavily tilted toward this gender demo. These gamers will likely trend younger, also.

“Tablet users, meanwhile, are made up of a slightly older user base than the smartphone market, and PC/console gamers remain dominated by younger males. The make-up of these gamer groups will thus likely follow those splits.”

As to what types of games are most popular, Fisher stated: “Smartphones are the most common gaming device, and so app games are particularly popular. Much gaming is shifting across to social networks, too.”