A survey by ArcadeWeb, a site for free-to-play casual titles, shows that the poor economy is driving consumers to play more games, with an increased focus on casual titles. 53 percent of gamers surveyed said that current economic conditions are changing their gaming habits, with 66 percent of those respondents adding that they now play more games due to the economy. 82 percent of overall respondents claim they have as many or more financial difficulties than they did two years ago.
"The online casual gamers we surveyed clearly indicate that a still-tough economy is having a significant impact on their current gaming behavior. Not only do they report playing more - which is great news for the industry - it seems to be fueling the momentum behind the hottest, fastest-growing gaming category, 'freemium' or free-to-play models," said Adriano Parrotta, VP, Social Games, ArcadeWeb.com.
When asked why they're playing more now, 32 percent of those surveyed cited stress relief, 29 percent cited the free nature of titles, and 25 percent explained that they could use online tournaments for free games to win money. Stress relief ranked higher with older players, while younger users leaned towards free-to-play as a primary motivation.
The survey also measured virtual item purchasing habits by age, gender, and religion. 68 percent of respondents reported never spending money on virtual currency. 36 percent of male gamers and 30 percent of female users reported making virtual currency purchases. By age, 34 percent of those aged 18-34 and 30 percent of those aged 55-64 purchased virtual items. 41 percent of players in the Western United States were more likely to purchase virtual items, with 29 percent of Southeastern and 27 percent of Midwestern gamers being on the bottom end of the scale.
"Because the virtual currency purchasing model is now so widespread at many huge, 'free' casual sites on Facebook and beyond, that spend should grow somewhat overall in 2012," noted Parotta. "But our survey reveals a powerful resistance to pay-for-play models by casual gamers, and real traction for models that are 'purely free,' or even 'beyond free' - sites that offer users free games and a chance to win real rewards or money."
Unfortunately, while the economy is driving users to play more, they're looking to pay less. 58 percent said they were looking to cut their online gaming purchases, with a mere 7 percent saying they'd spend more.