The firm’s consumer data, featured in the new consumer research project Online Gaming and Digital Distribution, show the number of U.S. consumers who play at least one hour of videogames per month increased from 56 million in 2008 to 135 million in 2011. The majority of these new gamers are "casual gamers," in particular people who play games like FarmVille and Angry Birds on social networks and mobile devices.
This formidable growth comes thanks to increasing penetration of devices such as tablets and, to a lesser extent, smartphones. Three-fourths of U.S. tablet owners play games on the device, including 79% of teen tablet owners, and 57% of smartphone owners play games on it.
"The increase in the number of gamers is impressive because it crosses almost all demographics," said Pietro Macchiarella, Research Analyst, Parks Associates. "Most of this growth is due to increases in the casual gamer segments, with tablets and smartphones usurping PlayStation, Wii, and XBOX as popular gaming devices.”
Growth in traditionally "hardcore" gaming segments, such as MMORPG gamers, has stagnated for several years. Gaming is a social activity for casual gamers; however, most players prefer asynchronous multiplayer games as opposed to multiplayer games “where everyone plays at the same time.”
"These changes have significant implications for the gaming industry," Macchiarella said. "This new majority of casual gamers is looking for games with low investments required in terms of dollars and time necessary to learn the game."