Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Media Democracy B-Side - video & social gaming

My latest State of the Media Democracy B-Side covers gaming, which is mentioned in the report in a couple of areas, but definitely deserves a deeper dive.

Having been an avid gamer since the days of the NES, it’s good to see that traditional gaming on consoles remains strong – nearly half of households now have one and 15% have connected it to the Internet. Console ownership has increased by about 20% year-on-year, which is pretty impressive given the less than perfect economic conditions and the considerable cost of the devices and their games.

Purchasing through the console was surprisingly prevalent with 28% of people who had their console Internet connected saying that they purchased something through it at least once a month in 2011. Consoles are the simplest way for many households to connect their TV to the Internet, so people’s willingness to buy through them is a positive sign for the wider on-demand content industry. Only 3% bought or hired a movie in 2011 on the console though, so there’s still some way to go even if people can be persuaded to take the plunge and connect. Perhaps not that easy for some users given that connecting an X-Box to a wireless network costs upwards of £50.

Connected or not, consoles only represented 2.3% of online time within the respondents. Given that 50% penetration number, it’s probably less than 1% of overall time spent online (although that represents about 200 million hours a year, which is pretty meaningful!). Linking that online time to the video game experience still seems tough, however. Only 10% of respondents visited a website as a result of seeing an advert in a game.

Speaking of online, Rovio and Zynga both had good 2011s, leading the way towards mass market connected gaming, principally on mobile devices. This shows in the numbers: 44% of men currently play games on their mobile phone, as do 38% of women. Interestingly, 15% of men said they’d tried phone games, but decided that they didn’t like them, compared to 13% of women. This suggests that casual games companies could take more time marketing their wares to female audiences.12% of respondents said that their devices couldn’t play games at all – since even the cheapest feature phone has “snake” or similar, this is more likely reflective of disinterest than lack of technical capability.

In terms of acquisition, men are very much more likely to download games to their handsets, with 22% currently doing this versus 14% of women. Part of this is due to a higher degree and longer duration of smartphone ownership amongst men. Although 46% of women now own one (versus 50% of men), many of these female user acquired their devices in the last year and may therefore still be adapting to a new experience. With PS Vita now having Wi-fi as standard and optional 3G, Sony will also hope to benefit from wireless downloaders.

There are even signs that videogames are become less nerdy and more mainstream. Nearly 15% of people admitted to discussing them with friends and colleagues at least weekly. 1337

For the record, I’ve got an Xbox 360 and my favourite ever game was Ascendancy.

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