It's a general assumption that online gaming and digital downloads are on the rise in the U.S., as broadband penetration spreads and the install base of internet-enabled consoles grows, but NPD Group has estimated just how much online gaming has grown in a new report.
The research firm said Tuesday the average number of weekly hours U.S. gamers spent playing games online rose 10 percent since 2009, as detailed in NPD's Online Gaming 2010 report. The report also said an average of 20 percent of all games purchased by online gamers were acquired digitally, which is up 19 percent from the similar 2009 study and 18 percent from 2008.
But while online gaming hours are up, 54 percent of gamers age two and older personally play online games -- down from 56 percent in 2009 and 55 percent in 2008.
Nevertheless, NPD's latest survey said that gamers spent eight hours per week on average playing online games, up from 7.3 hours a year prior, making up for the slightly fewer actual players playing online games.
NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in a statement, "While the percentage of the population that reports playing games has declined slightly, this study details other metrics which point to both stability and growth in both online and offline gaming."
In addition, it appears that online gamers regularly purchase games, even in a tough economy. The report said that 71 percent of online gamers purchased or received one game over the 2009 holiday season, or calendar Q4. Buying habits between 2008 and 2010 didn't significantly change among online gamers either.
"This suggests that online gamers' purchasing behavior may not have been impacted significantly by the recession and may bode well for future pockets of economic weakness," NPD said.
The ubiquitous PC is the most-used platform for online gaming activities, the report said. Eighty-five percent of online gamers said they used the platform for online gaming. But it's the Xbox 360 that rules online gaming in the family room, NPD said, as for the third year in a row it is the leading home console for online gaming with 48 percent of online gamers saying they take console online for gaming.
PlayStation 3 and Wii are about even in terms of online gaming usage, with 30 percent of online gamers saying they use the consoles for online gaming. The PS3 actually increased 10 percentage points from 2009.
NPD said Xbox 360, PC, and PS3 racked up the most hours among respondents, with 7.3 hours per week, 6.6 hours, and 5.8 hours, respectively.