It’s no secret that social games are one of the hottest (and potentially most lucrative) aspects of social networks today.
But it’s a mistake to think that casual, social network-based games are just for web geeks. A new study from market research firm NPD Group shows that one out of every five Americans over the age of six has played an online social game at least once. Altogether, that’s nearly 60 million Americans, adults and kids alike.
For a relatively new entrant to the gaming market, social gaming has made a huge debut.
These figures are good news for social networks, which have traditionally relied on advertising dollars to flesh out post-VC budgets. Social games can help create a new revenue stream, one that solely relies on end users opening their wallets to third-party applications. Virtual goods and currencies are a huge part of the social gaming market, and they turn a casual user experience into big business for the startups, developers and platforms that offer them.
NPD’s study shows that 10% of respondents had spent money playing social games and 11% said they planned to do so in the future.
In 2009, Internet () users bought around $2.2 billion worth of virtual goods; experts forecast that number will increase to $6 billion by 2013. And the best-performing social games can inspire repeat purchases in around 41% of users. Some stats peg North American gamers’ average expenditure per user of $74 over just four months.
As far as demographics are concerned, this study shows that the social gaming crowd tends to be older and female; around 53% of players are women. To those unaccustomed to looking at video game demographic stats, a 49/53 split might seem fairly even; however, this number bucks a decades-long trend of women as the minority in the ranks of video game players. Traditionally, males dominate when it comes to console game purchase and use; female adoption of social games is a remarkable change from this norm.
Another interesting point in this study is that most of these social gamers have never played a traditional video game; 35% have no previous gaming experience whatsoever.
According to other research, the average social gamer tends to be female and around 43 years old. Facebook () is the most popular destination for online games, with 83% of respondents saying they have played games there. The average player has played six social games.
Do you think the meteoric rise in user adoption and investor attention in social gaming will continue? How do you feel about the popularity of games such as Zynga’s FarmVille or other titles from companies like RockYou, Playfish and Playdom? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto (), alexsl