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Web Gaming Booms as Economy Goes Bust


NEW YORK They say that low-cost entertainment typically thrives during a recession. No-cost entertainment apparently does even better.

Traffic to online gaming sites -- many of which feature hundreds of free or low-cost games -- has soared as the economy has continued to sour. According to comScore, the online gaming category ballooned by 27 percent to 86 million unique users in Dec. 2008 vs. the previous year.

Perhaps even more telling given the uncertain state of most users’ finances is total time spent for the category: It swelled by 42 percent last month, as Americans appear to be opting for more leisure time at home.

In fact, gaming now accounts for a greater portion of the total time spent on the Web -- climbing from 3.7 percent in Dec. '07 to 4.9 percent last month, per comScore.

Among the sites that are the early beneficiaries of this surge in are Yahoo Games, which saw its audience jump by 20 percent to 19.5 million visitors and EA Online (which includes the popular Pogo.com), which saw its user base increase by 21 percent to 15.4 million. Disney’s games site also enjoyed strong year-over-year growth, hitting 13.4 million visitors last December, an increase of 13 percent.

In addition, WildTangent, which has deals with several of the top PC manufacturers to install its games directly on their hardware, enjoyed one of the largest growth spurts in December, per comScore. Its audience swelled by 74 percent year over year, netting out at 13.3 million users.