Even when gamers may be by themselves in a room while playing, they are not necessarily alone; the number of people playing games online continues to increase, and with it the time they’re spending interacting with that content.
According to The NPD Group’s Online Gaming 2013 report, 72% of U.S. gamers have been playing online -- a 5% increase from last year. With the rise in online gaming, the number of hours gamers spent playing has also increased, with the average number of hours played increasing 9% per week overall and an increase of 6% among those playing online.
“[Online gaming] is growing due to a combination of the increasing number of devices that are allowing you to connect online and the fact that there is more content for consumers to acquire online, driving them to connect online and play online more often,” Liam Callahan, industry analyst with NPD, tells Marketing Daily. “Advances in technology and the consumer’s increasing comfort in playing online will allow for more online gaming options across mobiles, consoles, portables, and PCs. We will start to see more integration across different forms of gaming, with things like ‘companion apps,’ which is a trend I expect to grow and even become the norm.”
Although many other platforms have encroached on its territory, the PC remains the top platform for online gaming, although its dominance is declining. According to the study, 68% of gamers said they used the PC for online gaming, down 4% from last year. At the same time, mobile gaming is quickly moving forward: online gaming improved 12% on mobile devices last year. Despite mobile’s ascendency, Callahan says there is room enough to support continued PC and console gaming.
“There are different levels of depth, game play and graphics across different devices and we also know that consumers are playing mobiles at different times and places,” he says. “Console, PC, portable, and mobile gaming can co-exist and even complement each other with things like companion apps or second-screen options.”
Ironically, however, the increased levels of online gaming have not affected game purchasing patterns as much as one might have thought. According to the study, 62% of online gamers said they preferred to purchase their games in a physical format (e.g. CD-ROMs), rather than through digital downloads. (Digital download preference, however, did increase 3% since 2012.)
“Consumers still find a lot of value in physically owning their games – whether through actually feeling more ownership by having a tangible product, or through the ability to trade-in or allow friends to borrow their games,” Callahan says. “They can then use those games to play online and are doing so more often compared to last year.”