As Gaming Gets Social, More Play Online

Online games are drawing the interest of more active gamers lately, thanks in part to their increasingly social aspects.

According to Nielsen Entertainment’s annual Active Gamer Benchmark Study, 56 percent of the 117 million U.S. “active gamers,” those who spend at least an hour playing games each week, play games online. Additionally, women make up 64 percent of those online gamers, while comprising less than a third of gamers as a whole.

As recently as a few years ago, gaming industry onlookers were sounding a death knell for PC-based games in the face of console and handheld dominance. The increasing growth of broadband and new socially-networked games has led to a revival, according to the report.

“The expansion of next-generation hardware and technology in the marketplace is simultaneously delivering new ecosystems of social exchange, interactive entertainment, media experiences and advertising models,” said Emily Della Maggiora, SVP of Nielsen Interactive Entertainment.

Massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) are popular among casual gamers. These offer simple and engaging encounters that are attracting both existing and new gamer audiences, especially older women. These connected experiences are not currently matched by console or handheld games, although Internet connectivity is looming for both of those markets.

“We see every day how important online gaming is in terms of connecting people and bringing communities of gamers together. From a simple battle in Halo to a more immersive communal experience, online gaming has the power to unite gamers across the street and/or around the world,” Della Maggiora said.

Active gamers on average spend more than five hours a week playing games socially, while teens are socially involved in gaming about seven hours per week. Teenagers are still the largest group of active gamers, making up 40 percent of that group. However, the gaming universe is aging, and almost 8 percent, or more than 15 million gamers, are now over 45 years old.

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