DICE 09: NPD - Six Million New Gamers In Last Year

Sharing statistics on console online gaming growth and diminished PC game retail sales, NPD analyst Anita Frazier revealed in a DICE session that U.S. gamer numbers jumped to 61 percent over the last year, bringing six million new players to the industry.
At an early-morning 2009 DICE Summit talk, The NPD Group analyst Anita Frazier revealed some interesting statistics regarding the current shape of the game industry. She started out by mentioning that relying excessively on previous trends in this tumultuous financial time shouldn’t be trusted as a projection of the future. "I think that looking at history, and making assumptions on what’s happened historically is not necessarily the best indication of what will happen in the future," she said. "The economy is as tumultuous as it’s ever been, and something could certainly come in and disrupt everything." Frazier reminded the audience that "over the last several years, there hasn’t been a direct relationship between the S&P 500 index compared to video game and PC sales in dollars." And indeed, as of 2008, 58 percent of the U.S. population aged 13 and over plays video games, according to the firm. Furthermore, "Amongst every dollar spent on entertainment, video games have the most share," said Frazier, and this translates to 27 percent of each entertainment dollar spent in 2008. One area which NPD has been having trouble with is digital downloads, but they did reveal some information. "PC game sales at retail have declined by over 50 percent in the last seven years," she said, but NPD does track subscriptions, which showed them that PC gaming is at least twice what retail shows. Though Frazier reminded us that this was a very rough estimate, NPD guesses that the total content picture for the game industry, including PC and console, might include non-retail sales of $2.3 billion overall, and retail sales of $11.7 billion. "Again, this is a really rough estimate, but we’re trying to get our arms around this intangible world that none of us have a lot of information about," said Frazier. "Online gaming has increased two percentage points from last year," she added, and within the console space, she revealed that of "the top three systems used for online play, it’s the Xbox 360, followed by the Wii, followed by the PS3. Last year, the PS2 was in the second spot." As a point of triumph for the industry, Frazier revealed new data that just arrived in her inbox last night. "The number of people gaming this year has increased to 61 percent [of the U.S. population]," she said. "The industry has gained an additional six million gamers over the last year." "About half of unit sales are for kids 17 and under," she added. "The retail market is very dominated by young people." The audience is 72 percent male, but women control "about half the spending in video games," says Frazier, reminding us that casual and more family-oriented games are spurring industry growth. "The core audience is still there, but it’s small," she cautioned. "It’s not that you should walk away from that audience, but you do have to recognize that the audience for some hardcore games is not as large as it is for more casual or family-friendly games."

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