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Study: 90% Of U.S. 'Tweens' Playing Games Online, Industry Missing Opportunity

Nine out of 10 U.S. "tweens" are playing online games, an M2 Research report says, but an analyst with the firm tells Gamasutra that "companies have been slow to realize that this is a very strong market."
Kids are playing video games "more than ever before," notably online, as social networks, mobile and console games become more ubiquitous. But game makers might be missing out on the tween opportunity, says M2 Research. M2's summary of its report "The Kids and Games: What Boys and Girls are Playing Today" found that 91 percent of tween (8-11) boys and 93 percent of tween girls play games online. Facebook, home of the burgeoning social game market, is also the favorite website of tween boys and teen (12-15) girls -- even though technically users have to be at least 13 to use Facebook. "We have found kids tend to play a wide variety of games, and their favorite games and gaming sites change often," said Louise Curcio, the M2 Research analyst who led the report. "There are opportunities for companies, and we believe the kids market has been overlooked." The report added that Nintendo is leading the portable gaming space, although Apple's iPhone and iPad are gaining share among youth, namely girls, M2 said. Sony's PSP, the firm said, continued to have a male-centric discrepancy -- 17 percent of teen girls play PSP games versus 44 percent of teen boys. The research also found that 20 percent of girls said the Mario franchise was their favorite video game series, making it the top pick among girls. Thirty-six percent of teen boys said they prefer Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, making it that group's top pick. Wanda Meloni, contributing author to the report, told Gamasutra in a phone call, "The data definitely shows that kids are influenced by video games, probably more than any other media, yet we did an analysis specifically for online gaming, and found that total investment in online games for kids is quite lower than what's been historically invested -- Club Penguin was pretty much half of the total investment in the kids space." She added, "Companies have been slow to realize that this is a very strong market, and kids have a good deal of influence, and know what they want." And with an M-rated game -- Call of Duty -- being the top pick among young boys, that datapoint could show that there is opportunity to offer that demographic more age-appropriate content. "It even really shocked us when we pulled the data for the first time, that these trends are happening," Meloni said. [UPDATE: The original press release from M2 sourced by Gamasutra indicated that 70 percent of teen girls play PSP games -- the actual figure was 17 percent.]

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