Millennials are approaching their prime purchasing years and are expected to spend over $1 trillion annually moving forward. Tapjoy tapped into these consumers for its annual Modern Mobile Gamer 2021: Millennials Edition, surveying 5,028 millennials on the MobileVoice by Tapjoy network in Q1 through Q3 2021. Respondents opted in to participate in the survey in exchange for in-game rewards or premium content. 

According to Tapjoy’s findings, millennials use their smartphones for everything, but predominantly for gaming and shopping—70 percent play mobile games daily and 73 percent shop on mobile up to four times per week. But to truly understand this group’s engagement with mobile, one must first understand their background. 

The youngest millennials were born in 1996 and the oldest in 1981, with about half of the millennials on the Tapjoy network being parents. This cohort’s upbringing has been marked by consistent periods of strife—from 9/11 to the war on terror to multiple recessions to the pandemic. And while their baby boomer parents grew up in times of professional and economic prosperity, many millennials face growing college debt, stagnant wages, inflation and excessive home prices.

Like Gen Z and unlike baby boomers, millennials are tech-savvy, socially aware, active on social media and almost always have their mobile phones on them. One of their defining features is that economic struggles affect almost every facet of their lives – from whether to buy a home to how many children to have to how they engage with brands and ads. For insights into millennials’ behavior toward mobile gaming, mobile shopping and mobile ad engagement, see Tapjoy’s findings below.

Mobile Gaming

Mobile is millennials’ gaming platform of choice. Tapjoy’s research shows that 86 percent of millennials use smartphones for gaming while only 37 percent game on console or handheld and only 27 percent game on PC. Additionally, roughly 75 percent report playing mobile games on any given day.

The COVID-19 pandemic increased the amount of mobile gameplay as 73 percent of respondents said they played more mobile games, 59 percent downloaded new gaming apps and 42 percent experimented with new gaming genres. Consequently, millennials are now more receptive to mobile games than they were before the pandemic.

Despite the fact that millennials are relatively easily drawn into the free-to-play ecosystem, they are almost just as likely to play mobile games based on humorous or creative advertising.

Mobile Shopping

Mobile is the go-to shopping platform for millennials, with 80 percent saying that they make mobile purchases “often,” according to Tapjoy. Among their top mobile purchases are streaming services (74 percent), to-go food and restaurant delivery (66 percent), clothing (55 percent) and beauty products (46 percent). As with mobile gaming, mobile shopping also increased during the pandemic—a phenomenon showing no signs of slowing down.


Having grown up with political, social, economic and environmental front-and-center, millennials tend to hold their values in high regard, prioritizing them in every aspect of their lives including which brands they support. Close to half of millennials said that a company’s values, from sustainability, diversity and employee treatment, factor into whether they accept a new job and which brand they buy from.

Ad Engagement

Being extraordinarily receptive to ads with a value exchange, 55 percent of millennials engage with rewarded mobile game ads more than other ad types and 63 percent reported enjoying engaging with rewarded ads via offerwalls—more than any other age group Tapjoy surveyed. To engage millennials with ads, the ad must get to the point quickly, be non-intrusive and humor should play some part in grabbing their attention, found Tapjoy.

Brand Engagement

In order to seize the attention of the millennial audience, brands must convey social awareness, be active on social media, and be engaging with short videos, memes and social posts. Forty-one percent of respondents reported following brands with funny and engaging content while 55 percent do so if the brand treats employees well.

Family Dynamics

As previously mentioned, economic issues have impacted how millennials engage with their families and whether they choose to start one of their own. Tapjoy’s data mirrors other studies showing that millennials are delaying having children. Of those surveyed in Tapjoy’s study, only half are parents—compared to 72 percent of Generation X. Similarly, millennials are substantially less likely to be married compared to older generations. Nevertheless, 74 percent have one or two children, and 27 percent have three or more children. 

Education and Career

Compared to other generations, millennials are remarkably educated, especially when it comes to holding advanced degrees. Unfortunately, this hasn’t guaranteed them financial freedom. Older millennials reached adulthood during the dot-com bubble and Twin Tower attacks and subsequent recession. Other millennials graduated college amid the Great Recession or its aftermath. As a whole, millennials are more likely to be unemployed than Gen X and deem fair treatment and a work-life balance equally as important as the income they earn.

General App Habits

Overall, not all millennials can be grouped together in the context of general app habits. Older millennials, for example, open their social media apps when they wake up in the morning and before they fall asleep at night, according to Tapjoy. They’re particularly attached to social media and use it as a tool to socialize, network, remain informed and research new products to purchase. 

In addition, 71 percent use the Facebook app, 62 percent use mobile gaming apps, 62 percent use Instagram, 37 percent use TikTok and 31 percent use Twitter. During the pandemic, 64 percent spent more time on mobile.