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Console gamers still rule, survey finds

A survey taken in the USA finds more than half are gamers

The latest survey from Magid Associates looking at gaming trends and attitudes found that while console gaming is still the biggest sector, mobile and social gaming have made big strides, becoming the number 2 and number 3 platforms for gaming. The survey also found that more than half of consumers in every demographic group from 8 to 54 play games. Magid's survey, taken from a nationally representative online sample of 2540 people between the ages of 8 and 64, was collected from March 19 through March 26.

The survey found that 64 percent play video or computer games, and that gaming has become the #2 household entertainment expenditure, behind only the TV/internet bill. The average Internet-using household spends a combined $80 per month on TV and Internet, while spending on gaming averages $20 per month, and movie and TV show purchases average $17.

"The console is still king: Console gaming has more players, money and time spent than any other platform," the report noted. Some 20 percent of U.S. respondents 8-64 said they "can't live without a game console." Among male console gamers between 12 and 24 who play on their console at least once a week, some 60 percent say they can't live without their console, only slightly less than the 62 percent that said they can't live without their PC or laptop.

Mobile and social games have passed PC games, online portals, handheld games and MMOs in popularity. While console games are still the most popular gaming activity, console gamers are getting their gaming fix across multiple platforms.

The survey found that console gaming is poised for small growth in 2012, based on the fact that gamers overall in the survey expect to spend more money on console games than they have in the past year. This is difficult to reconcile with the alarming decline in retail sales, unless you assume that much of the difference will be made up with sales of downloadable content (DLC). Supporting this idea, the survey found that most console gamers are now aware of DLC, and one-third have purchased DLC.

"Tablet users are gravitating towards gaming as the primary use for the device"

Looking at the numbers, the survey found that 50 percent played console games at least once a week, compared to 44 percent for mobile, 37 percent for social (with both mobile and social up from 3 percent in 2010, an amazing rise) and 24 percent for handheld games. Gamers spent 7.2 hours weekly playing console games, followed closely by social gamers with 6.7 hours spent every week.

The survey also looked at tablet gaming, and found that "tablet users are gravitating towards gaming as the primary use for the device." Playing games is now the #2 use for tablets, with only "accessing the internet" ahead of it. Perhaps more importantly, games are the top monetizable content category on tablets. The survey found that the average tablet gamer downloaded 20+ games last year, and 23 percent of tablet gamers are paying for virtual goods, averaging $62 per spender.

Smartphones are also an important gaming platform, with almost half of smartphone users playing games regularly on their devices (43 percent overall; 52 percent for iPhone users, and 42 percent for Android users). As with tablets, games are the top monetizable content on smartphones, with the average smartphone gamer downloading 10+ games last year. Some 14 percent of smartphone gamers are paying for virtual goods, averaging $25 per spender.

Looking at survey numbers is always a useful reality check, especially when the industry in question is changing rapidly. Consumer tastes also change, and it's very important to separate your own personal likes and dislikes from what the marketplace is doing. Survey numbers help point to overall trends in the marketplace, and can be important guides to strategic decisions.

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Steve Peterson avatar
Steve Peterson: Steve Peterson has been in the game business for 30 years now as a designer (co-designer of the Champions RPG among others), a marketer (for various software companies) and a lecturer. Follow him on Twitter @20thLevel.
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