The economic recession could be pushing up gaming hours, and accelerating the used games and video game rent-by-mail businesses, according to a new report from research firm Nielsen.
As seen in the chart below from Nielsen's report
[PDF link], average gaming hours per week in 2009 have been ahead of the comparable months in 2008.
Nielsen Games' director of client consulting Michael Flamberg said, "Primarily, we believe mainstream gamers are playing more of the broadly appealing games (i.e Wii Fit, Guitar Hero
and Rock Band
) pushing their hours of gameplay up."
But hardcore gamers, he said, are not likely driving factors in the rise of hours played.
Nielsen recorded that gamers logged nearly 19 hours per week in January 2009, compared to less than 16.5 hours per week in January 2008.
In May 2009, the most recent month in Nielsen's report, gamers played just over 16.5 hours per week, compared to under 16 hours per week in May 2008.
The full graph explaining this reads as follows:
Also on the rise from last year are used game sales purchases. In May 2009, the ratio of used games purchased by Nielsen survey subjects was 0.36. "Used game purchasing is at all-time highs in 2009, looking back since 2006," Nielsen said.
GameStop is the leading used video game retailer, and in May reported used software sales
were up 31.9 percent for its first fiscal quarter, as consumers have become more value-conscious.
Another way that gamers are seeking out more bang for their gaming buck is through rent-by-mail services such as GameFly and Blockbuster's Total Access. The average subscription rate for using such services is trending ahead of prior years so far in 2009.
The rising popularity of used game sales and rentals is at the expense of new game sales, Nielsen suggests. But new game sales are also softer this year because of a lack of huge hits in the first have of 2009. By comparison, 2008 saw massive releases such as Grand Theft Auto IV
and Mario Kart Wii
While gamers may be more value-conscious, many of those surveyed also said that the recession will not impact the amount that they spend on games in the year ahead, even though 50 percent said they have been negatively affected by the economy.
"Thirty-five percent of gamers claim they are spending more money or plan to spend more on gaming this year than last year and 39 percent claim they are spending the same amount," Nielsen's report said.