NPD: Mobile gamers now largest gaming segment in U.S.

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Mobile gamers now make up the largest single segment of the American gaming audience, according to new data issued by market research firm NPD Group.

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The Mobile Gamer segment is up 9 share points from last year.

An estimated 211.5 million American consumers play videogames across all platforms, down 5 percent from 223.5 million a year ago, NPD reports. Despite the overall slide, the number of mobile gamers increased 9 percentage points over 2011 and now account for 22 percent of the total U.S. gaming market. Digital gamers grew 4 percentage points year-over-year and represent 16 points of the gaming audience. All other segments--including Core Gamers, Family+Kid Gamers, Light PC Gamers and Avid PC Gamers--experienced declines compared to 2011, with the Family+Kid demographic losing an estimated 17.4 million gamers.

Gamers spent an average of $48 on physical games and $16 on digital games (including portable, PC and console titles) in the past three months, NPD reports. Core Gamers spent $65 on physical games over the same time period, more than any other audience segment. In addition, close to 14 percent of total gamers completed microtransactions or purchased additional game content in the past three months compared to 11 percent during the same period in 2011, led by Core Gamers (27 percent) and Digital Gamers (23 percent).

"Given the long lifecycles of the current consoles and the increasing installed base of smartphones and tablets, it's not surprising to see a slight decline in the Core Gamer segment," said NPD Group Analyst Anita Frazier. "It's the revenue contribution of the Core Gamer segment that continues to outpace all other segments, and remains vital to the future of the industry."

NPD's mobile gaming findings correspond with data issued in June by Information Solutions Group, which reports there are now 125 million people playing mobile games in the U.S. and U.K. Forty-four percent of adults play at least one mobile game per month, an increase of 29 percent compared to a year ago; the number of daily players is up from 35 percent in 2011 to 45 percent in 2012, and 22 percent of mobile gamers play more than three hours a week, compared to 14 percent a year ago. No less impressive, the ratio of new gamers (defined as consumers playing mobile titles for less than a year) has doubled over the last three years, making up 44 percent of the overall mobile gamer market.

Information Solutions Group adds that 51 percent of survey respondents made mobile game-related purchases in the past year. Sixty-two percent of expenditures were for premium downloads, with close to $4 of every $10 spent on additional game content and/or in-game currency. Forty-eight percent of subscribers who spend money on mobile games are under the age of 35; eighty-six percent tend to play multiple times a week, and 45 percent own a tablet. Also worth noting: Mobile gamers who play exclusively on tablets are bigger spenders than smartphone gamers, averaging $25.47 a year compared to $16.68.

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