As Recession Lingers, Gamers Play On

NEW YORK The video gaming industry remains less affected by the recession than other parts of the media and entertainment industry, according to a new Nielsen study that shows high engagement of gamers.

For example, compared with DVD purchasing and moviegoing, gameplay and game purchasing show increases month-to-month since last year, according to Nielsen, which is the corporate parent of The Hollywood Reporter. The average number of DVD purchases for January was unchanged, and the average number of movies seen in the past two months was down 3 percent, while the average number of total games purchased in the past six months was up 18 percent and hours of gameplay per week was up 13 percent.

Both self-reported and electronic audience measurement data indicate an overall increase in minutes of gameplay per month across all gender and age segments. Importantly, males age 18-24, a demo that contains more gamers than others, show increases in gameplay ranging from 16-24 percent each month so far in 2009, said Nielsen. Females age 13-17 show gains of 12-30 percent.

Among gamers who reported playing more in 2009, 36 percent cited liking their game system better, and 34 percent said they liked the games better this year, Nielsen found.

In other findings, 42 percent of the 2,400 gamers polled by the media measurement firm plan to play more than last year, and 35 percent claim they plan to spend more on gaming than last year, according to the findings.

Forty-one percent say they continue to play the same amount as last year and 39 percent said they would spend the same amount of money on games, despite the fact that half of gamers polled claim to be negatively affected by the recession.

This increase in gameplay time during a recession can be explained by a recent increase in used game purchases, Nielsen said. From January through May of this year, the average number of games purchased used in the past six months increased from 3.01 to 3.51, while the average number of games purchased decreased from 10.35 to 9.75.

This fits in with figures from video game retailer GameStop, which reported that in the first quarter used game sales increased by 31.9 percent, while new game sales were down 2.8 percent. The success of used games has also led other retailers, such as Best Buy, to start selling such retreads.

Gamers are also beginning to substitute the purchase of new games with subscriptions to video game rental services from companies such as Blockbuster and GameFly.

Adweek is a unit of the Nielsen Co.

Nielsen Business Media