Today’s consoles provide a different kind of value to consumers. Beyond gaming, they offer an online network to communicate with friends and form relationships, an arena for a spectator sport with fervent followers and a device to stream TV, movies and music.

Confirming that sentiment is a new report from Hub Entertainment Research, “Game Consoles 2021: Respawned and Leveled Up,” which found that game consoles are occupying more time in the lives of many consumers as spend, usage and ownership have all experienced an increase since the pandemic started.

While 36 percent of respondents said they play console games about the same amount as in 2019 (33 percent), 51 percent of console gamers told Hub that they play every day—up from 39 percent two years ago.

Forty-two percent of console gamers who play at least once a week told Hub that they’re playing their consoles more this year than last vs. only 32 percent who said the same thing in 2019.

Game sessions are about 20 percent longer this year. In 2021 weekly console gamers estimate their average session is about 110 minutes, up from about 90 minutes in 2019, according to Hub.

Ownership of multiple game consoles is up too. The share of all players ages 13 to 74 who play console games is about the same in 2021 as in 2019—36 percent vs. 33 percent—however, the density of ownership is considerably higher. Hub found that in 2019, just a quarter of console gamers owned both a PlayStation and an Xbox but in 2020, more than a third of respondents said they own both.

In addition to owning more consoles, gamers are also spending more on games. 53 percent of console gamers said they spent more on gaming this year than last vs. slightly more than a third who said the same thing in 2019.

Thirty-nine percent of weekly console gamers said they buy digital copies of console games at least a few times per month—up from 25 percent in 2019. Another 38 percent regularly download downloadable content or expansion packs for games they already own—up from 22 percent two years ago.

As engagement grows, so does the impact of in-game advertising. Hub’s data show that 70 percent of regular console gamers play titles with branded in-game content—up from 61 percent in 2019. Among those exposed to in-game advertising, 44 percent said they prefer in-game ads to regular commercials and 72 percent said that branded downloadable content makes the game more fun to play.

Lastly, the role gaming has played in helping consumers maintain relationships during COVID can’t be overlooked. More respondents mentioned communication or connection with friends as a reason for gaming than in 2019. Plus, 45 percent of weekly console gamers told Hub they have at least one in-game friend that they’ve never met in real life.

Hub Entertainment Research’s findings are based on an online survey conducted among 2,601 US consumers ages 13 to 74, including parents of kids under age 13, in late August and early September 2021.