Social Networkers Playing Online Games, Study Finds

An NPD Group report finds the power of social networking sites such as Facebook is impacting online gaming culture--20 percent of social networkers have played a game through a social networking site.

According to Social Network Gaming, the most recent report from the IT market research company The NPD Group, 20 percent of the U.S. population ages six and older reported having played a game on a social network in the past three months. his equates to 56.8 million U.S. consumers, which the company's report concluded was a "significant number" for a relatively new gaming activity.

According to the report, 35 percent of social network gamers are new to gaming, never having participated in any other type of gaming before they started playing games on social networks.

The report found females and older age groups are more likely to be new gamers than other groups measured in the study. Interestingly, despite the perception that social network gamers are primarily females, the study found that social network gamers are fairly evenly divided between genders, at 47 percent male, and 53 percent female.

"Although 35 percent of social network gamers are new to gaming, it's clear that a lot of existing gamers have been drawn into the social network gaming arena as well," said Anita Frazier an industry analyst, for the company. "This impacts both the time they spend with other types of gaming, as well as the amount of money they're spending on gaming. As more players are drawn into these games, the entire games industry is going to feel, and have to adjust to, the impact."

While she acknowledged that users could play these games for free, Frazier said it is worth noting that 10 percent of social network gamers have spent real money playing these games and 11 percent indicate that they are likely to make a future purchase. The report said social network games are also impacting spending on other types of gaming activities as gamers report spending 20 percent less on gaming overall since they started playing social network games.

"There are many distinctions between the players who spend money and those that don't," said Frazier. "While social network gaming has caught on with a mass market audience, it's not without its challenges. Players are frustrated by slow loading and performance issues and report getting bored by the games easily. Clearly, these types of games will have to continue to evolve if they hope to hold their audiences and incentivize them to spend money playing."

The study was comprised of two sample types: a nationally representative sample of social network gamers as well as a pre-identified sample of social network gamers. The source of the former is NPD's Games Acquisition Monitor, which was fielded April 5-20, 2010 and is weighted and projected to be representative of the US population age six and over. The pre-ID portion of the sample was fielded from June 1-9, 2010 via an online survey to NPD's Consumer Panel, yielding qualified social network gamers (also age six and over), defined as those who are members of or users of at least one social network site and who also currently play games on at least one of these sites. Also included in the report was data based on individuals who do not play social network games, but who are members/users of these sites.