Nielsen Entertainment has released the findings of its third annual Active Gamer Benchmark Study, showing that social elements of gaming are on the rise and "becoming an increasingly important part of the overall gaming experience."
Though conventional wisdom has posited gaming as a solitary experience, the study of 2,000 consumers over the age of 13 showed that "active gamers" are spending upwards of 5 hours a week playing games socially, the largest category of which are teenagers, who Nielsen found are socially involved in gaming 7 hours per week on average. Though 40% of Nielsen's study were in this teenage group, the study found that almost 13% (15 million) gamers are 45 years or older, and that women make up two-thirds of all online gamers.
Amongst the study's other findings were that older females comprise the largest percentage of casual gamers, but that "active gamer" teens and young adults also make up a considerable portion of this market, with more than half playing casual games an hour or more a week.
On platform ownership and ubiquity, the study found that 64% of Active Gamers play on PC-based systems, a figure Nielsen called "not surprising" given the penetration of PCs in households and the experiences of MMOGs that consoles have yet to match. PCs are also the most popular platform for casual gamers, especially women, 64% of whom play online.
In consoles, the study found the PlayStation 2 dominating ownership at 59%, followed by the Xbox at 33%, the GameCube at 30%, and the Xbox 360 at 15% ownership amongst "active gamers." The study also noted that the rate of cross-ownership amongst consoles is still in the majority, and that cross-ownership amongst consoles and handhelds has risen from 7% to 16% over the past year, due in large part to the DS and PSP.
The study also notes that handheld ownership among "active gamers" is significantly more gender balanced, and that gamers are playing an average of 17 hours a week on portables, compared to 14 on console. About a quarter of those studied also are playing on mobile phone.
Finally, the study found that over the past 6 months "active gamers" purchased an average of 4 games, 90% of which came from retail and 10% of which were purchased online, and that the average player spent 47 hours with each game purchased. The average "active gamer" was found to have spent around $58 a month on entertainment, $16 of which on gaming, and spent a quarter of their weekly average leisure time on games, followed by music.
"The Active Gamer 2006 Report comes at a pivotal time in the evolution of the video game industry," said Emily Della Maggiora, Senior Vice President of Nielsen Interactive Entertainment. "The expansion of next generation hardware and technology in the marketplace is simultaneously delivering new ecosystems of social exchange, interactive entertainment, media experiences and advertising models. We see everyday how important online gaming is in terms of connecting people and bringing communities of gamers together. From a simple battle in Halo to a more immersive communal experience, online gaming has the power to unite gamers across the street and/or around the world."