Mobile Gaming Grows, Total Number of Gamers Falls in Recent Survey

By Steve Anderson September 06, 2012

An unexpected set of seemingly contradictory results came out of the results of a recent survey from the NPD Group: while the total number of gamers in the United States fell fully five percent, the number of people playing mobile games and games online climbed impressively.

The total number of gamers in the United States, according to the NPD Group's survey, was fully 223 million in 2011, or around two-thirds of the country's population. That number fell in the course of one year fully five percent to 211.5 million. While most of the major segments in the NPD Group's survey—avid PC gamers, light PC gamers, and core console gamers—saw losses, the biggest losses went to the family / kid gamer segment. 

Image via Shutterstock

There were, however, gains in two main segments: the online gamer segment, and the mobile gamer segment. Those playing games like Minecraft jumped 16 percent, while those playing mobile games like Angry Birds and Words With Friends saw an overall 22 percent jump.

Some have cited the continued weak economy as one of the reasons for the shift in game style, while others have called attention to the increasing aging of the consoles and the increasing install-base of the mobile gaming market. No one's buying consoles any more as they already have the consoles they want, so that market's falling apart. Meanwhile, more people are buying tablets and smartphones, so they're taking advantage of the games available for play on those platforms.

This particular study raises more questions than it answers. For instance, some have called attention to the unusual way in which the survey is set up. Note that four of the segments are essentially related to the type of platform used to play, while one platform is devoted to the type of games played, the “family / kid gamer” segment. The difference between light PC gamer and heavy PC gamer is also a point of unusual distinction to many.

But by like token, the aging of the console market has likely altered the total market, with gamers looking for something new and different, and finding it in online games and mobile games as well. The picture will likely change again, and soon, when the new consoles start making their appearances in the next year or two, but until then, a new and altogether stranger picture is in play right now.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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