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The Real Game Changers Are the Gamers Themselves

From mobile to social to console, understanding player behavior
  • April 27 2012

Americans are playing games more than ever on a growing list of technological devices. According to the Entertainment Software Association, at least one individual in 72 percent of American households plays computer or video games. Add that to the gaming capabilities of smartphones that about 50 percent of Americans carry in their pockets and you’ve got a form of entertainment nearly as ubiquitous as television.

But not all gaming experiences are created equal in the eyes of today’s gamers. From mobile and social to console and PC, consumer behaviors change drastically with the platform. Even different mobile operating systems report differences in use. Last year, iPhone users averaged 14.7 hours of play per month compared to Android’s 9.3 hours, according to Nielsen. Maintaining a foothold in this rapidly growing industry requires an understanding of how today’s Americans are choosing to play.

At the 2012 Game Developer’s Conference, Funzio’s Jamil Moledina shared basic distinctions in the behaviors of mobile and social gamers. Most mobile gamers participate in snacking—playing many times a day for very short periods of time, typically 2-3 minutes per gaming session. On Facebook and Google+, sessions are longer, but more distracted. Most social gamers log in for about 10 minutes of gaming at a time, but only interact with the game 2-3 times per day and are often participating in other activities online simultaneously.

Because of the change in American’s gaming habits, many developers have started adapting games for on-the-go players. Last summer, Playfish and EA released The Sims Social, the first Sims game to move off of the PC and consoles and into the social space. The game translated the deep experience of The Sims games into simple, “snackable” gaming that could be shared with friends. The reception was astounding. One month after launch, it surpassed Zynga’s Farmville to become the second most-played game on Facebook. Now, eight months after launch, the game still enjoys more than 16 million monthly users.

But simply moving to a new platform isn’t the only solution to fit into the changing lifestyles of Americans. EA Sports’ Madden team found that while the average Madden game took one hour, many of its faithful fans were struggling to find the time to play a full game.

Developers introduced Gameflow to the Madden 2011 franchise, a feature that cut the average game time in half by calling the plays for the gamers. By optimizing the game to the gamers’ changing lifestyles and behaviors, Madden enjoyed significant sales. Madden 2011 became the best-selling game in the 23-year old franchise. This year’s Madden 2013 is expected to mark the 100 millionth unit sold in the franchise.

Consumer behavior has played an active role in driving growth and innovation in gaming and technology. The developers who evolve with their consumers and bring gaming to the places where people are spending their time will keep ahead of the curve in this rapidly changing industry. When we take the time to recognize how gamers’ lives are changing beyond gaming, we are able to join gamers in what they do best: delight in play.


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