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Popularity Surge for Social Games

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One-fifth of the U.S. population has played a social game over the past three months, according to a new report issued by industry researcher The NPD Group.

That translates to 56.8 million U.S. consumers -- and a whole lot of updates on FarmVille and Mafia Wars.

Notably, this audience does not necessarily match up with the PlayStation and Xbox crowd.

According to NPD, a significant portion of social gamers -- 35 percent -- are new to gaming. And while many of those new gamers are female; overall, 53 percent of social gamers are women.

Despite social games' growing popularity, few users are willing to pay for them. Per NPD’s report, just 10 percent of social gamers have spent any money on these diversions, and only 11 percent of respondents said they intend to do so down the road.

That trend may be indicative of a lack of loyalty among social gamers compared to popular console games.

"There are many distinctions between the players who spend money and those that don’t," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier. "While social network gaming has caught on with a mass market audience, it’s not without its challenges. Players are frustrated by slow loading and performance issues and report getting bored by the games easily. Clearly, these types of games will have to continue to evolve if they hope to hold their audiences and incentivize them to spend money playing."

See also: Digital Gaming Special Issue