A new study, Trends in Digital Gaming: Free-to-Play, Social and Mobile Games from Parks Associates says that the number of gamers (game players) in the United States has gone up 241% since 2008. The study says that 135 million people play at least one hour per month as compared to 56 million in 2008. Smartphone gamers have increased a lot as well, going up to 17% from7%.
Most players are on free to play (F2P) games on either their PC or through Facebook. The industry is seeing a clear shift away from packaged games to online and digital download games that are more of a service than a one-time purchase.
“Instead of ending support of customers after they buy individual game titles, game companies now focus on building gamer communities and developing ongoing relationships with their customers,” said Parks Associates research analyst and study author Pietro Macchiarella. “The positive effect of this approach is that game monetization can be extended beyond the point of sale. Unlike traditional offline games, the online world allows the industry to earn revenue even when people play the same game repeatedly.”
In the F2P model, for instance, the barrier of relatively high cost up-front purchases (games were often $50+ at release and $20 or so a few weeks later) are gone. Instead, players download and play for free, but often end up paying here and there for upgrades, add-ons, and other micro-transactions that are totaling an average of $21/month per paying player.
Mobile gaming may soon see the same kind of m-t boost as the ease of making purchases through them proliferates.