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Nielsen: Video Games Getting More Social

Nielsen Entertainment reports that third annual update to its Active Gamer Benchmark survey finds social elements are becoming more and more important part of the overall video game experience, with some 56 percent of the roughly 117 million gamers in the U.S. playing online games, and some 64 percent of those online gamers being women. Moreover, the study finds that so-called Active Gamers spend more than 5 hours a week playing games socially, with gaming teens being socially involved in gaming as much as 7 hours a week. (The survey defines Active Gamers as being 13 years old or older, who own a gaming device and play games at least one hour a week; the survey includes 2,200 respondents.)

The survey also found that older females comprise the largest portion of casual gamers, but active gamer teens and young adults also make up a good bit of the market, with more than half of them playing casual games an hour or more every week. On the flip-side, role playing games—long thought the bastion of older hardcore gamers—turn out to be most popular among active game playing teens. Unsurprisingly, Active Gamers are also the most likely to buy a game the first day it’s available, or pre-order it before release. And those Active Gamers? Getting older: more than 15 million of them (nearly 13 percent) are no over 45 years of age.

According to the survey, some 64 percent of ActiveGamers play on PC-based systems, which are popular amongst players of both casual online games and Massively Online Multiplayer Role Playing Games (MMORPGs); among console systems, the Playstation 2 still dominates 59 percent of the market, with Microsoft’s Xbox claiming 33 percent and Nintendo’s GameCube cornering 30 percent—although 15 percent of Active Gamers have shelled out for an Xbox 360. Most Active Gamers also own at least a console and one other gaming platform, whether a PC or portable device—and portable systems like the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP have seen their levels of cross-ownership double from 7 to 16 percent between 2005 and 2006.

"The Active Gamer 2006 Report comes at a pivotal time in the evolution of the video game industry," said Emily Della Maggiora, Senior VP of Nielsen Interactive Entertainment. "The expansion of next generation hardware and technology in the marketplace is simultaneously delivering new ecosystems of social exchange, interactive entertainment, media experiences and advertising models. We see everyday how important online gaming is in terms of connecting people and bringing communities of gamers together. From a simple battle in Halo to a more immersive communal experience, online gaming has the power to unite gamers across the street and/or around the world."

[Update Oct-10-2006: Nielsen has issued a correction to their initial release stating the percentage of gamers over age 45 is 13 percent rather than 8 percent. The text above has been updated.]

[Update 07-Nov-2006: Today Nielsen withdrew the whole darn release:

Nielsen Entertainment said that an ongoing evaluation of the custom research study, upon which the news release was based, revealed conflicting information that had not been resolved before the report was released to the market in October. Nielsen Entertainment notified its clients on Monday, November 6. A new report to the market will be issued after all information from the study has been re-evaluated, Nielsen Entertainment said.

The October custom report was based on an on-line study of video game usage conducted among a sample of 2,200 Active Gamers in the U.S. during July 3-9, 2006. The report also referenced market-size data, and that information is being re-evaluated. Nielsen Entertainment added that a new definition of “Active Gamer” is under review.

If that doesn’t inspire confidence in the firm which sets itself as the standard for mass media metrics in the U.S., nothing will.]