Online Crossword Puzzle Market

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Online Crosswords Market Size

In 2018, there were roughly 25.5 million online crossword puzzle players in the United States.

General crossword puzzle stats

  • There are currently an estimated 50 million people completing or attempting to complete crosswords, 30 million of whom complete them in newspapers. This represents 60% of crossword puzzle players.
  • The remaining 20 million players "solve the crosswords in magazines, some online and some in books."
  • In 2015, a survey found that 57.8% of crossword solvers completed the puzzles in newspapers.
  • This same survey found that 32.4% complete crossword puzzles online and another 10% complete them on mobile apps, for at total of 42.4%.
  • In 2015, 28,900,000 people played crosswords in the newspaper.
  • In 2015, 16,200,000 played online crossword puzzles.
  • In 2015, 16,200,000 played crossword puzzles in magazines.
  • In 2015, 5,000,000 played crossword puzzle apps.
  • Combined, in 2015, there were about 21,200,000 crossword puzzle solvers who played either online or in an app.

Social games growth

  • The U.S. social online games market grew from $1.531 billion to $1.840 billion, a CAGR of 6.32%.
  • Crossword puzzles are considered "puzzle games," which are part of the larger category of social online games market.
  • Social online games can be either browser-based or app-based.
  • Using this more conservative growth rate for both online and app-based crossword players, there would have been 22,539,840 online crossword players in 2016.
  • There would have been 23,964,358 online crossword players in 2017.
  • There would have been 25,478,905 online crossword players in 2018.

Mobile games growth

  • The North American mobile games market grew by 4.1% between 2015 and 2016.
  • This would put the 2016 mobile crossword games market at 5,205,000 players.
  • The North American mobile games market grew by 4.0% between 2016 and 2017.
  • This would put the 2017 mobile crossword games market at 5,413,200 players.
  • The North American mobile games market grew 10% between 2017 and 2018.
  • This would put the 2017 mobile crossword games market at 5,954,520 players.

Your Research Team applied the following research strategy:

To begin the search for the size of the U.S. online crossword puzzle market, we hoped to find a direct answer in a market research report or industry publication; however, despite extensive research through market sources such as MarketWatch, Grandview Research, Research Reports World, and Statista, and industry-specific sources including PCGamer, WePC, Computer Gaming World, and NewZoo Games, there was no information specific to the online crossword puzzle market. We did find that puzzle games have a 57.29% penetration in the United States, but there was no breakdown of how much of that percentage belonged to crossword puzzles alone. Since the puzzle games category also includes logic games, trivia games, and other puzzles like Sudoku, Candy Crush, and Angry Birds, we were unable to use this percentage to accurately calculate the number of online crossword puzzle players.

We switched strategies and began searching for crossword puzzle statistics, hoping to find a percentage breakdown of the channels through which people complete crossword puzzles. This tactic was more successful, as we found numerous publications that indicated that an estimated 50 million people in the United States complete crossword puzzles. We also found that 30 million of those complete them in newspapers. This same article indicated that the other 20 million was broken up between online, books, and magazines, but this did not get us any closer than fewer than 20 million people who are doing crossword puzzles online. Meanwhile, in our search, we found a mention from a reputable crossword puzzle writer that of the 50 million people solving crossword puzzles in the United States, "probably 2 million [are] playing different crossword apps." However, this statistic had no data behind it and felt more like a guess than an actual data point.

Even so, we attempted to confirm that number in order to be able to at least provide the number of people playing crossword puzzle apps, so we continued searching for that specific statistic through media sources like Bloomberg, QZ, the New York Times, and others. We found another article from Editor and Publisher that indicated the New York Times announced that "more than 2 million people are playing crosswords digitally each month." However, we were unable to determine if this was just the number of people solving the New York Times' digital crossword puzzles or if it referred to the entire digital crossword puzzle landscape.

However, in the course of this strategy, we came across some promising statistics about the New York Times' digital crossword puzzle service. We found that in 2016, when the New York Times first disclosed its number of digital crossword puzzle subscribers, there were 212,000 people subscribed to the service. Then, we found that as of December 2018, there were 430,000 subscribers to the New York Times'digital crossword puzzles. Using a CAGR calculator, we were able to determine that the number of digital crossword players subscribed to the New York Times' service grew by an average of 42.42% per year. We thought if we could find expand our search to beyond the 24-month time frame, we might be able to find the number of online crossword players in 2015 or 2016 and use the New York Times' CAGR to calculate the current number of online crossword players.

Unfortunately even expanding the time frame did not provide the desired number we wanted. However, we did find a few other data points that we thought might help. First, we found the number of overall digital subscribers for the New York Times, which as of December 2018, they had 2.54 million total subscribers. Using that number and the number of subscribers to the New York Times' digital crossword puzzles (430,000), we calculated that crossword puzzle solvers made up 17% of the overall number of digital subscribers (430,000 / 2,540,000). We thought we might be able to use this percentage to find the total number of online crossword puzzle solvers out of the total number of crossword puzzle solvers. Using the 50,000,000 estimated number of total U.S. crossword puzzle solvers, this would mean that there are 8.5 million online crossword puzzle solvers (50,000,000 x 0.17). However, this logic was flawed as well since the 17% is not of the total number of people solving New York Times puzzles both on and offline, but instead of the total number of digital subscribers. We were only able to find mention that "several million" people solve New York Times crossword puzzle on a regular basis. If we had been able to find a more solid estimate, we could have provided a better apples-to-apples proxy.

We continued searching for crossword puzzle statistics and came across a 2015 AYTM survey of 400 people about their crossword puzzle preferences. Even though this survey is slightly out-of-date, we believed that if we could find the number of total crossword puzzle solvers in 2015, we could use the New York Times' digital crossword service CAGR to calculate the market size from 2015 to 2018. We discovered, though, that no matter which year we searched, from 2008 to 2010 to 2013 to 2015 to 2018, the estimate of 50 million crossword puzzle solvers remained the same. As such, we decided to use the percentages from the 2015 AYTM survey to calculate the approximate number of crossword solvers out of the estimated 50 million in 2015 that completed crosswords in the newspaper, online, in magazines, and on apps. These findings are in the "General Crossword Puzzle Stats" section and the calculations are below:

  • In 2015, a survey found that 57.8% of crossword solvers completed the puzzles in newspapers and 32.4% complete them in magazines.
  • This same survey found that 32.4% complete crossword puzzles online and another 10% complete them on other channels such as mobile apps, for at total of 42.4% (32.4% + 10%). Here, we assumed that the majority of that 10% belonged to apps because all other major channels are covered by the other percentages.
  • In 2015, 28,900,000 people played crosswords in the newspaper (50,000,000 x 0.578)
  • 16,200,000 played online crossword puzzles (50,000,000 x 0.324)
  • 16,200,000 played in magazines (50,000,000 x 0.324)
  • 5,000,000 played crossword puzzle apps (50,000,000 x 0.10)
  • This equals more than 50 million because many crossword puzzle solvers play in more than one channel.
  • Combined, in 2015, there were about 21,200,000 crossword puzzle solvers who played either online or in an app (16,200,000 + 5,000,000).

  • Then, we thought we could apply the CAGR from the New York Times' crossword puzzle service to these numbers to estimate the total number of online crossword solvers in 2018. Even though we did not have numbers for the New York Times digital crossword subscribers for 2015, we elected to use the CAGR from 2016-2018 with the assumption that the 2015-2016 year growth would not be much different. Our calculations are below.
    • 21,200,000 online and app-based crossword puzzle players in 2015
    • 30,193,040 online and app-based crossword puzzle players in 2016 (21,200,000 x 1.4242)
    • 43,000,928 online and app-based crossword puzzle players in 2017 (30,193,040 x 1.4242)
    • 61,241,922 online and app-based crossword puzzle players in 2018 (43,000,928 x 1.4242)
    Unfortunately, using this growth rate exceeded the total number of estimated crossword solvers overall for 2018, so we determined the growth rate of people playing the New York Times digital crosswords is not representative of the entire segment. As such, we switched tactics once more.

    We attempted to find the game category in which crossword puzzles fall. We discovered that crossword puzzles are a part of the "puzzles" gaming genre, but other than the penetration percentage, we were unable to find any other revenue or user statistics for this niche, even though we searched thoroughly through all the above-mentioned sources. However, we did find the growth of the online social games market in a report from WePC and discovered that many online puzzle games, including crosswords, are a part of this larger genre. This is because many online and app-based crossword puzzle games include a social component. While not all of them do, this was the closest market segment we could find for online crossword puzzles. The revenue numbers provided in the WePC report were for both online social games and social app games. We used a CAGR calculator to determine the average growth rate from 2015 ($1.531 billion) through 2018 ($1.840 billion), which was 6.32%. Then, we performed the following calculations.
    • 21,200,000 online and app-based crossword puzzle players in 2015
    • 22,539,840 online and app-based crossword players in 2016 (21,200,000 x 1.0632)
    • 23,964,358 online and app-based crossword players in 2017 (22,539,840 x 1.0632)
    • 25,478,905 online crossword players in 2018 (23,964,358 x 1.0632)
    This seemed like a much more reasonable estimate, but it still was not quite exact since the growth rate encompasses the entire online social games market and the full puzzle market. However, we assumed the online crossword puzzle market grew at about the same pace as the social market as a whole and that this number is as close as we can get without additional publicly available data points.

    Still, we went a little further to calculate the estimated number of mobile app crossword puzzle solvers since we had more accurate data on this niche market. We found that the North American mobile game market grew by 4.1% from 2015 to 2016, by 4.0% from 2016 to 2017, and by 10% from 2017 to 2018. We used the North American market CAGR because the U.S. market was not available for all years; however, the U.S. market represents 93% of the North American market, so we assumed most of the growth likewise applies to the U.S. Our calculations for the mobile app-based crossword puzzle market are below.
    • The North American mobile games market grew by 4.1% between 2015 and 2016
    • This would put the mobile crossword games market at 5,205,000 players in 2016 (5,000,000 x 1.041)
    • The North American mobile games market grew by 4.0% between 2016 and 2017
    • This would put the mobile crossword games market at 5,413,200 (5,205,000 x 1.040)
    • The North American mobile games market is expected to grow 10% between 2017 and 2018
    • This would put the mobile crossword games market at 5,954,520 players in 2018 (5,413,200 x 1.10)
    Sources
    Sources