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NEW YORK, May 9 (Reuters) - The average American video gamer is 33 years old, prefers to play on their smartphone and is spending big on content -- 20 percent more than a year ago and 85 percent more than in 2015, a report showed on Thursday.
The annual research from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) comes as more American households rethink how to set limits for kids who love gaming and how to allocate their entertainment budgets in the streaming era.
The $43.4 billion spent in 2018 was mostly on content, as opposed to hardware and accessories. Of pay-to-play games, "Call of Duty: Black Ops III", "Red Dead Redemption II" and "NBA 2K19" took the top spots for most units sold but the list did not include free games such as "Fortnite."
"Games are striking an important chord with American culture," said Stanley Pierre-Louis, ESA's acting president and chief executive officer. "That's what makes it the leading form of entertainment today."
Nearly 65 percent of U.S. adults, or more than 164 million people, play games. The most popular genre is casual games, with 60 percent of players gaming on their smartphones, though about half also play on personal computers and specialized consoles.
Parents are limiting screen time for their kids and using video game ratings to screen content, and 87 percent of parents require permission for new game purchases, the study showed.
Some 46 percent of all gamers are female, though they favor different kinds of games than men, particularly depending on age.
Female gamers between 18 and 34 years old prefer "Candy Crush", "Assassin's Creed" and "Tomb Raider" and play most often on smartphones, while their male counterparts mostly play games on consoles, particularly "God of War", "Madden NFL" and "Fortnite."
Gen Xers, who are 40 to 54 years old, lean towards "Tetris", "Pac-Man", "Call of Duty", "Forza" and "NBA 2K."
Male baby boomers aged 55 to 64 like "Solitaire" and "Scrabble", while women lean towards "Mahjong" and "Monopoly."
Game players were no more prone than other Americans to live isolated, sedentary lives, according to the report.
Americans will soon have even more ways to play video games.
Apple Inc is launching a game subscription service and Alphabet Inc's Google announced a video game streaming service late this year.
The new services will present challenges to established video game developers like Electronic Arts Inc, maker of "Apex Legends"; Tencent Holdings Ltd's Riot Games, maker of "League of Legends"; Valve Corp, owner of "Counter-Strike" and the Steam distribution platform; and Activision Blizzard Inc, owner of "Call of Duty" and "Candy Crush."
Ipsos gathered data from more than 4,000 Americans to conduct the study for the ESA.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)