Total player time with browser-based online games increased 42 percent in 2008, says online measurement service ComScore in a new survey shown to Gamasutra.
According to its latest study, the online game category has gathered 86 million total visitors as of year's end, up 27 percent.
Americans spent 4.9 percent of their total internet time in 2008 playing online games, says ComScore, who surveyed its large group of Internet users to extrapolate the data. This figure is up notably from 3.7 percent in 2007.
ComScore's sector chart claims that Yahoo! Games is the most-visited online game site with 19.5 million visitors, a total increase of 20 percent for the year. EA Online, a network which includes sites such as Pogo.com, comes in second with 15.4 million visitors, a 13 percent increase.
The site network to place tenth on the list, Spil Games, is also the one that saw the most significant boost over the year, surging 269 percent to 6.7 million visitors.
Yahoo! Games ranked as the most visited site in the category with 19.5 million visitors (up 20 percent), followed by EA Online with 15.4 million visitors (up 21 percent), and Disney Games' set of sites, with 13.4 million visitors (up 13 percent).
The full chart is as follows:
ComScore's director of gaming solutions Edward Hunter tells Gamasutra that the ad-supported online game category may be providing an attractive free alternative for consumers in an economic downturn.
As the online advertising market in general is perceived to be declining overall, online games are attracting more display ads, Hunter adds.
"This means a few things," Hunter suggests. "First, it means that agencies and ad-planners are ‘getting it’ with regards to the power of the engaged gamer. Second, he believes that it means they will soon demand the same ROI and effectiveness measurements that they demand in traditional media.
More visitors means more ad exposures, and the number of views in 2008 grew 29 percent to 8.6 billion in November, even while the average player's frequency of exposure remains constant.
This doesn't equate to more ads cluttering up online games, ComScore maintains -- the number of ads per page view is actually down 17 percent, meaning advertisers are getting more eyeballs and more exposure in online games for fewer total ads.
So not only do gamers seem to be accepting advertising more, advertisers are seeing the value in supporting online games, Hunter explains.
"It also means that we will probably start to see a shift in the monetization model," he predicts. "This will be hugely underscored by 2008 technology developments allowing full-blown immersive 3D in the browser."