Around 20 percent of the U.S. population aged 6 and up, or some 56.8 million Americans, have played a game on a social network, according to a new report from market research firm The NPD Group.
The company's "Social Network Gaming" report notes 35 percent of that segment is new to games, and had not played any traditional PC, home console, handheld or other types of video games before trying out social titles.
While the study shows that female and older respondents are more likely to be new gamers compared to other groups, it also found that the gender breakup of social network gamers is "fairly evenly divided" with 47 percent male and 53 percent female.
The firm adds that 10 percent of social gaming respondents have spent real money on microtransactions for those free-to-play titles, and 11 percent say they will likely buy virtual goods and currency in the future.
Those purchases affect their spending habits for other gaming activities, too, as traditional gamers say they spend 20 percent less on gaming overall since they started playing social network titles.
"Although 35 percent of social network gamers are new to gaming, it's clear that a lot of existing gamers have been drawn into the social network gaming arena as well," says NPD Group analyst Anita Frazier.
She continues, "This impacts both the time they spend with other types of gaming, as well as the amount of money they’re spending on gaming. As more players are drawn into these games, the entire games industry is going to feel, and have to adjust to, the impact."