Nielsen: Casual Gamers Play Less, Return Often

NEW YORK Solitaire may be as sticky as World of Warcraft. According to new research from Nielsen, while users of casual games spend less time playing them than noncasual gamers, they are just as likely as the noncasual gamers to return to them months later.

The study, “Insights on Casual Games,” looks at data from more than 800 casual games for PC computers, which are defined as inexpensive to produce, straightforward in concept, easy to learn and simple to play.
Of the top 20 casual game titles that Nielsen tracked for the May 2009 game play data, card games were by far the most popular, with 88 percent of casual gamers playing them. Puzzle games were a distant second with 9.5 percent of casual game players participating.
Casual gamers spend less than half the time noncasual gamers do in each session. While casual game sessions lasted an average of 31 minutes, noncasual was more than double that total, at 80 minutes per session. (World of Warcraft helped bump up this average, with an average playtime of nearly 120 minutes.)
“Casual games are very popular, especially in this economic environment, and they enjoy a broader audience than typical, hard-core PC games,” said Brad Raczka, marketing analyst for Nielsen’s games division. “Not only does casual gaming draw in traditional ‘gamers’ such as teens and young adults, but also prime advertising targets such as stay-at-home moms, retired people and younger kids.”
The study looked at whether players returned to casual games months later with the same frequency that they return to the noncasual games. Measured over a seven-month period, the recurring game play rate for casual games was found to match or exceed that for noncasual games. For example, about 20 percent of the 47 million unique gamers who played Microsoft Solitaire at least once during the seven-month period, came back to the game at least once in each of the seven months measured. By comparison, about 12 percent of the 5 million World of Warcraft players who played the game in two or more months returned to it at least once every month.
Cost does not make a significant impact on whether players come back to the games month after month. Nielsen found similar recurring game play rates between those using the free Microsoft Solitaire to those playing the for-charge Great Escapes Solitaire.
Females make up the majority of casual gamers (58 percent), a significant shift from noncasual games, which are much more of a man’s world. Males make up a full 75 percent of those playing noncasual shooter games and 63 percent of those playing role-playing games. The players of noncasual games also tend to have a computer with much more memory, averaging more than 2 gigabytes, compared with the relatively modest 0.5 to 1 gigabytes of the casual gamers.

Adweek is a unit of the Nielsen Co.

Nielsen Business Media