Shifting gaming demographics

In the last few days, lots of articles are coming on on this topic, based mainly on the results of Nielsen Interactive Entertainment’s annual study. The Hollywood Reporter has the best coverage I have found, in Online gaming attracts more women than men (Nielsen study tracks booming genre). I’ll quote lots of highlights below, but before I do, I want to also quote from a previous blog entry of my own, since the two sets of data combine in ways that are REALLY interesting and important. From Game industry projections – 2005 to 2010:

Total global game software market:
$23.1 billion in 2005
$35.4 billion in 2010
Compound Annual Growth Rate 8.9%

Mobile game software 2005 $1.67 billion
Mobile game software 2010 $6.5 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 31.2%

PC online game software 2005 $3.2 billion
PC online game software 2010 $9.1 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 23.2%

Console online game software 2005 $0.26 billion
Console online game software 2010 $2.95 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 62.5%

Handheld game software 2005 $3.84 billion
Handheld game software 2010 $2.7 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate -6.8%

PC retail game software 2005 $3.1 billion
PC retail game software 2010 $2.7 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate -2.7%

Console game software 2005 $11.0 billion
Console game software 2010 $11.4 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 0.7%

Online gaming drilldown:

2010 long session market (eg MMOs) $4.82 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 26%

2010 mid session market $4.72 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 29%

2010 short session market (eg casual games) $2.5 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 34%

So I combine that data with the Nielsen data, and here are a couple things I see: future growth in the game industry is especially focused in the areas of female and online games, and the already-sold stereotypical demographic of teenage boys playing console and handheld games is stagnant or in decline.

Game companies listening? We could really use some broadening of game industry content outside it’s current narrow niche – especially in the console space – so I really really hope they are listening. So here is some data from the Hollywood Reporter article:

Nielsen’s extensive survey of demographic, age and gender trends in the video game space found that as of August, about 117 million people in the U.S. qualified as “active gamers,” meaning they spend at least one hour per week on a gaming device. That’s up from 112 million last year. Of the active gamers, 56% play games online, and 64% of those online players are women, according to the study.

about 117 million people in the U.S. qualified as “active gamers,” meaning they spend at least one hour per week on a gaming device. That’s up from 112 million last year.

The study also shows that while gaming remains a part of consumers’ lives as they age, they approach it with a different mind-set.

“We call them ‘family focused,’ ” Della Maggiora said. “This is a group that was once avid gamers; they have been playing games on average for 14 years, though now with life-stage changes — having a mortgage, kids, marriage — their focus falls on to their family. So, while gaming is still a part of their life, it is not consuming them, and they turn to games to relax and kill time.”

According to the report, active gamers spend upward of five hours a week playing games socially, a pace led by teenagers, who are socially involved in gaming about 13 hours per week.

While women are dominant among online gamers, men still outnumber women in the overall video game space by more than 2-to-1 (70%-30%). Older females make up the largest percentage of casual gamers, usually playing online card and puzzle games. Thanks to casual games and the emergence of massively multiplayer online games, 64% of active gamers play on a PC. About 24% of active gamers engage in gaming on their mobile devices.

But video games must compete for wallet share and clock time with other forms of entertainment. Active gamers spend an average of $58 a month on entertainment, $16 of which goes to video games. They also average about one-quarter of their weekly leisure time (13 out of 55.3 hours) playing video games. After gaming, music is the second-most-popular activity among the majority active gamer groups, though it is tied for first among females at nine hours.

The video-game industry is undergoing a transition from current- to next-generation consoles, with Xbox 360 on store shelves since November and Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3 shipping next month.

“Next-generation gamers are looking for compelling, innovative and unique gameplay experiences that not only deliver high-end quality gaming but also allow a communally connective environment, and the Xbox 360 has delivered on both,” Della Maggiora said. “Nearly eight out of 10 Xbox 360 active gamers say that the Xbox 360 has lived up to its next-generation gaming promise of quality gameplay, rooted in superior graphics and sound quality. And nearly 50% of active gamers with Xbox 360 are on Xbox Live, while another quarter (26%) say they are planning on subscribing soon.”

That last quote is one that doesn’t address user demographics particularly, but I left it in there for a few good reasons. First of all, it seems to me 80% is a pretty good satisfaction level after less than a year of XBox 360 usage – kudos to the 360 team! – and this also seems to me pretty good evidence that the move to next generation consoles will happen quickly rather than slowly – that’s 80% of next-gen users telling their friends they should also buy next-gen. Second of all, this niche is by far the biggest booming, from the projections, which I will reiterate here:

Console online game software 2005 $0.26 billion
Console online game software 2010 $2.95 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 62.5%

And last and most interesting, the “online console gaming” niche is the place where the seperate demographic groups that we’re talking about might be converging. This is a very important point because of its implications: first of all, this could break the “offline teenage console gamer stereotype” out of that offline scenario and bringing it online, making it more social. And second of all, if satisfying online console content is available for them, the older and the female and the casual online gamer demographics could move in the direction of the consoles – a very important shift, since they are all primarily online on the PC now.

If these thoughts are interesting, and you missed my earlier related blog post based on a different study, you might also check this out:

Study says: There are SIX different types of gamers

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5 thoughts on “Shifting gaming demographics

  1. Peter says:

    Brilliant!

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