Mike Vorhaus is the managing director of the consulting and research firm Frank N. Magid Associates and is in charge of a fairly in-depth study of consumer trends in gaming. His latest work is that of profiling “lapsed” console gamers. Here’s what he found:
Guys, of course, are the core of the console-games market and are the basis of his study. Vorhaus refers to declining gamer activity as “cliffs” in the gamers life. The first group, 12-to-17-year-old boys, has 78% playing console games at least once a week. But when boys become men and enter the 18-to-34-year-old bracket, they fall off the first cliff. Those still playing console games weekly: 42%.
The second cliff comes when gamers move into the 35-to-44 category, weekly gaming drops to 24%. The numbers continue falling the older gamers get. It should also be noted that the same downward trend exists for women, even if not as extreme. And the study/survey found that more than one third of gamers used to play console games but don’t anymore.
While console hardware and games sales surged to $7.7 billion in 2006 up 75% from $4.4 billion in 2000, household penetration of consoles has been about the same over the same period at a little over one third of U.S. homes. And while population growth helped the industry’s tremendous success, the biggest reason for the jump was game companies pushing more products to existing gamers. Chris Satchell, a Microsoft game executive, explained how this is bad news in the long run, “You cannot sustain growth just by taking more money from the same people.”
But back to the study by Vorhaus: the two explanations cited most for giving up on gaming are “got too busy” (48%) and “got bored” (40%). So how to stop this trend before it really starts to take hold? The industry is worried about losing gamers from the Millennials (a term used to describe the population born between 1980 and 2000).
So far, Nintendo is the only company that has taken this problem seriously (at least, seriously enough for anyone to see results). Both the Wii console and DS hand-held are designed to be easier to use while still engaging. And the games don’t require tens of hours of time commitment for satisfaction.
The question is, will Sony and Microsoft soon follow? And will hardcore gaming become more of a niche market with the mainstream being taken over by casual gaming?
For more details, see this article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).