Players are not playing on video game consoles quite as much as they once did. Handhelds are hurting as well. Now even social gaming, the segment that was eating into console and handheld time just a few years ago, is transforming into something else, losing players that once stayed glued to their desktop screens to other activities. Where is everyone going? According to Google, tablets are the machines people play video games on these days.
A new study called “Understanding Tablet Use: A Multi-Method Exploration,” compiled by Hendrik Muller, John Webb, and Jennifer Gove of Google found, unsurprisingly, that video games are a central activity for tablet owners. “[Our] goals were to provide a detailed picture of how people are using tablets today. We investigated when, where, why, and how people interact with content on their tablets,” reads the study, “We explored activities including, but not limited to, media consumption, shopping, cooking, and productivity.”
What did the 33 participants in Google’s study do the most with their tablets? Check their email. After that, though, Google found that the most common activity other than checking email on a tablet is playing video games. More than 51 percent of those surveyed used their tablet for gaming, and almost 11 percent of all time spent using the tablet was for playing games.
Email use came first by a wide margin, with more than 84 percent of respondents using tablets for checking mail and nearly 19 percent of all time on the device spent doing so. What’s significant about Google’s findings in regard to gaming though is that it found people spent significantly more time playing games than they did on social networks, watching videos, shopping, or even web surfing. Even in those cases when a larger percentage of participants used their tablet for those activities—more than 57 percent of users used their devices for social networking for example—they spent just over 6 percent of their tablet time checking the networks, far less than on games.
Similar studies have been conducted in the past couple of years, as Google’s own says, but this study differs significantly. Nielsen, for example, found that social networking and video watching were took up more time than game playing. User habits are changing and fast.
What does that mean for game developers? Hard to say. Making money on tablets, even Apple’s hyper-popular iPad, is difficult. The average revenue from an iOS game is just $2400. People may be playing on tablets, but they’re still not spending what they do on consoles.