Game, set, what’s the catch? Gaming, mental health and sustainability

Euroconsumers new survey of gamers in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Belgium tells us gaming is not just fun, but has tentacles that reach all the way into the challenges of mental health and sustainability.

It’s about fifty years since the very first games console was released and in that time they’ve become a gateway to gaming across the world. It’s estimated that about a fifth of the global population owns or uses a console which makes them the most widely used home entertainment device in the world after TV and DVDs.

In Europe, half of all Europeans regularly play video games. Mobile gaming is growing but games consoles remain incredibly popular, with around a third of Europeans owning or accessing one.

But how much do we really know about our favorite gaming device? A new survey of gamers in Euroconsumers’ member countries asked around 1,840 people in Italy, Spain, Belgium and Portugal how they choose and use, play and pay with their consoles. 

It found most people were pretty satisfied with the way they play, but 38% reported that gaming had a negative impact on their sleep. Data also showed an opportunity to encourage more people to buy reconditioned or second hand consoles and to keep them in use for longer. 

A new European Commission report has just been published on how to maximise the competitiveness of gaming in the region. We focus on two key consumer aspects that any gaming strategy needs to include: mental wellbeing and environmental impact.  

1. Mental health and time online 

Euroconsumers’ survey helped shed some light on the ongoing debate as to whether video games have a positive or negative impact on mental health and overall physical health.  Our findings supported the idea that online gaming can bring people together to enjoy a shared activity – but that disruptions to rest and sleep were pretty common. This suggests it’s important to really understand the benefits and risks of online gaming and how to best balance them.

The survey found gamers are social, on average 46% of respondents play with other people they live with or with friends and 15% with people they don’t know. Italians are the most open to playing with strangers, as 18% say they play with people they don’t know with 18%, Portugal prefers to keep it close with only 12% playing with strangers. 

Players communicate differently depending on who they are playing with – 44% like to chat by voice and a third talk and text at the same time. With strangers, it’s text chat if they chat at all…

Those surveyed averaged about 10 hours a week, but half of all respondents played a bit less with 1-8 hours a week on screen.  

When asked whether video games have a negative impact on their mental health, professional life, or overall health and quality of life, over 80% of respondents in all but one category said there were few or no negative impacts.

Some studies have shown that video games can benefit people’s mental health as well as increase creativity, problem-solving skills and teamwork and collaboration skills. And the WHO/Europe has found that video games have the potential to be used for the prevention and management of noncommunicable diseases.

However, despite the potential benefits for users, gaming can also create problems for users’ personal, family, social, educational or occupational activities.  Digging a little deeper, we find that a slightly higher proportion report some negative impact when it comes to academic / professional life and social life at 16% and 17% respectively.  

The data showed a small proportion of players reporting spending over 33 hours a week gaming (2.8%), with 0.7% of them putting in over 64 hours a week. Although this is a small number of people, a much more significant number of people interviewed (38%) reported a negative impact on their sleep.

Overall, although it seems that gaming does not necessarily have a negative impact on consumers’ mental health, it leaves us a mixed picture and policy makers concerned with mental health should take a thoughtful approach. 

In response to the growing concerns about mental health, the Commission adopted its Communication on a comprehensive approach to mental health. Unfortunately, this did not include much on gaming but future work could draw on the wider range of research and strategies out there for maximum insight. For example the 2022 European Strategy for a Better Internet for Kids (BIK+) strategy stresses potential benefits of online gaming for minors, stating that when age-appropriate, online gaming can be constructive and educational, can help develop digital skills, and bring other societal benefits. 

2. Playing the long game

How long a console is in use for depends on a few different factors.  The shift to paying by subscription for digital versions of games, instead of buying a hardcopy, could lower the need to update to a new console. 

On the other hand, we learnt from the survey that players buy specific consoles for their exclusive games which could push them into buying more than one console. Compatibility also impacts longevity; some consoles don’t support backward compatibility, meaning that users cannot play games from previous console generations on the latest hardware.

The survey found pretty much everyone buys their console new, with only 6% buying refurbished or second hand. Belgium leads the way for second hand purchases with 6% and the Portuguese keep things circular with 2.5% buying a refurbished model.

The data also shows that they expected new consoles, whatever the brand, to last almost five years. However, people still reported they’d replace them before their expected minimum lifetime. 

This contrasts with a recent ecodesign study by the EU which found that in reality, games consoles stay in use for between 7 and 14 years – partly due to their continued functionality.


“Actually it seems that consoles, as part of the family furniture, are one of the most used and long lasting of electronic devices – making them as energy efficient as possible is really important, and improving the push to buy second hand or reconditioned ones.”


Els Bruggeman, Head of Policy and Enforcement, Euroconsumers 

Our survey also asked about any problems owners had with their consoles. Generally, the majority of respondents express overall contentment with their consoles (78%). In some cases, there were issues like breaking or losing fluidity when playing offline which was mentioned by 28% of people, and overheating by 46%. 

15% of people had a moderate or severe problem caused by the gaming controller – the most well known of these was the ‘Joy-Con drift’ issue.

Joy Con Drift


'Joy-Con drift’ was the name given to a Nintendo Switch Console glitch where online characters ignored the joystick controls and moved of their own accord. This effectively made the device unusable. Euroconsumers’ member Testachats/Test Aankoop were part of a joint consumer organization call on Nintendo to repair all the defective products free of charge and to stop releasing devices that still had this fault. Nintendo admitted the flaw and promised to make it easy for gamers to get repairs. Matching the reality of console purchases, we ensured that the warranty extends to devices bought second-hand or received as gifts, eliminating the need for proof of purchase. We continue to monitor how this is enforced, recognising there may be further challenges in the process.

The newly agreed Empowering Consumers Directive includes a ban on early obsolescence practices which could impact faults like the one found in Nintendo Switch. This should complement the upcoming proposal on the Right to Repair which introduces incentives for consumers to use goods for a longer time. Finally, the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation which is at the trilogue stage sets out requirements for product durability, reusability and reparability.

Article 1 of this proposal broadens the scope of the current Ecodesign framework to all products in the internal market. Currently, games consoles are only covered by a voluntary agreement as agreed with the Commission. 

Read more…

You can find out more about how consumers and their consoles in our new report: Game, set, what’s the catch? This joint survey of consumers in Euroconsumers’ member countries asked around 1,840 people in Italy, Spain, Belgium and Portugal how they choose and use, play and pay with their consoles.