Speaking at MI6, Anita Frazier of consumer-tracking firm NPD Group showed research revealing that nearly one in five people playing some type of video game in March 2010 did at least some of their gaming on a social networking site like Facebook.
The revelation comes as the traditional video game industry moves to capitalize on the growing group of nontraditional gamers.
For example, in November 2009, publishing giant Electronic Arts acquired Playfish for $275 million to establish an even stronger presence in the social network gaming market. At the time, Playfish claimed it reached 50 million active users each month.
While the two groups –- traditional console gamers and social network gamers –- are often considered separate, research by the NPD Group reveals that there is significant overlap between the two.
In particular, 64 percent of people playing video games in the U.S. during the last quarter of 2009 spent at least some of their time on a video game console. However over one third of those console gamers also played a social network game during that same three months.
Viewed from the other perspective, two out of three people playing games on a social network during the end of 2009 also spent some time playing console games.
Frazier's presentation elaborated not only on the growth of social network gaming, but also on the demographics of those gamers. Of the gamers who played only on a social network in the last three months of 2009, 63 percent were female and 37 percent were male. The roles were almost precisely reversed for console-only gamers in the same period, with 38 percent female and 62 percent male.
Moreover, while 27 percent of gamers as a whole are 45 years old or older, 35 percent of gamers playing on social networks but not on consoles are in that same age group. The 45-and-older group accounts for only 19 percent of gamers who played on consoles and did not play any social network games.
The group of gamers who play on both console and social networks should clearly be the target for publishers and retailers. Over half of that group of gamers purchased a new game on a physical medium during the last part of 2009, compared with only 42 percent for gamers who played on consoles only and a mere 17 percent for dedicated social network gamers. Perhaps most lucratively, 1 in 9 of these split-loyalty gamers also purchased a digital add-on for a game during that same period.
However, Frazier's presentation revealed that the group of gamers willing to engage in microtransactions – for example, buying new levels or characters for a game – is still quite small. According to the NPD data from August 2008 and August 2009, no more than 3 percent of the gaming population (age 13 and older, in this case) had spent money on that kind of gaming content in the prior 3 months of the respective survey years.
When this group was broken out by platform, gamers on Sony's PlayStation 3 were the most likely to engage in microtransactions, closely followed by gamers on Microsoft's Xbox 360. Gamers on the Wii and PC were significantly less likely to purchase incremental content.