Nielsen: Game Consoles on Rise

NEW YORK More than two-fifths of television households in the U.S. possess a videogame console, a number that has increased 18.5 percent over the last two-plus years, according to a new report from the Nielsen Co.

Nielsen, the parent company of Adweek and Mediaweek, found that 45.7 million American homes or 41.1 percent have a gaming console, up from 38.6 million homes in 2004, which accounted for roughly 35 percent of households at the time. During the same period, the total number of television households grew just 1.6 percent, indicating that videogames are growing in popularity as an entertainment companion to TV.

“The videogame console has become a major player in the battle for the living room,” said Jeff Herrmann, vp, Nielsen Wireless and Interactive Services.

The new report, “The State of the Console,” combines data from Nielsen’s National People Meter sample of TV households and its quarterly “Home Technology Report.” The hefty console figures gathered from Nielsen’s research underscore just how large and attractive the gamer audience is becoming. In fact, among the typically hard to reach men 18-34 demographic, Nielsen found that two-thirds of households have consoles—a number that would appear to be on the upswing given the strong sales for new consoles launched by Sony and Nintendo prior to the recent holiday shopping season.

And beyond the pure console-owner crowd, the number of Americans simply playing games is swelling. According to the report, between Sept. 18, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2006, 93.8 million persons used a videogame console at least once for a minute or more. Perhaps even more compelling to marketers: during any average minute of the day, roughly 1.6 million people in the U.S. are using a videogame console.

For marketers hoping to capitalize on the audience, the option of running live advertising within videogames (i.e., ads that rotate regularly during game play) should also start becoming easier and more compelling, as the number of console games that are connected to the Internet had increased to 4.4 million households. That number is expected to increase significantly once the surge of new consoles purchased over the holiday period is factored in.

To help better quantify game usage and help advertisers track this important target, Nielsen plans to launch GamePlay Metrics later in 2007, which aims to create the equivalent of the company’s TV ratings data for gaming consoles.