PlayStation 2 Rules Console Game Space

NEW YORK More than 68 million people played videogames with a console in June and Sony’s PlayStation 2 accounted for 42 percent of all playing time, double the total time players spent on Microsoft’s Xbox console.

PS 2’s dominance in monthly console usage was revealed today by the Nielsen Co. in the first issue of its “GamePlay Metrics” report.

The most popular PC game in June was Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft (by a factor of four over its nearest rival), followed by Microsoft’s Halo: Combat Evolved and The Sims from Electronic Arts.

“GamePlay Metrics” is the first electronic ratings and proprietary survey data to reveal who is playing games, on which systems and when.

For example, the report shows that the Wii console, which ranked fifth in overall usage during June, has an upscale user base, with households that are more likely to earn $100,000-plus annual incomes. Game usage for the Wii peaked at 8 p.m. in June, somewhat later than its 5 p.m. usage peak in April.

Nielsen expects that the newly available metrics will drive more advertising into the gaming sector, said Jeff Herrmann, vp, Nielsen Games and Nielsen Wireless. “That’s explicitly what this is designed to do,” he said.

As an independent third party, the company is attempting to ensure a level of transparency to mitigate the risks to ad buyers, Herrmann said. “From an integrated media standpoint, having the ability to look across several platforms…should drive a lot of money into the space,” he added.

Adweek is a unit of the Nielsen Co.

The report also noted that console gamers played an average of 7.5 days in June. For the days played, Xbox 360 users logged an average of 2.2 sessions, marking the most active sessions, with an average session lasting 61 minutes. While PlayStation 3 placed last in percentage of total minutes (1.5 percent), it nonetheless posted the longest average session time of 83 minutes.

Clients of the metric span the ad community, including videogame publishers, console manufacturers, advertisers, agencies and financial services firms. Herrmann declined to name specific companies.

Until now, most of the research has been survey based, tracking ad effectiveness. Advertisers have based buys on experimentation, mainly using discretionary funds. “These metrics allow the media budget to be unlocked,” said Herrmann.

Nielsen aims to complete a metric system at the end of the year with initial data available in 2008 that tracks advertising. This will include static and dynamic ads, tracking placement, size and the type of unit, said Herrmann.