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Report Americans Serious About Casual Game Play

2 minute read | September 2009

Solitaire may be as sticky as World of Warcraft. While users of casual electronic games (card games, puzzles, etc.) spend less time per session playing them than those playing non-casual games (role playing games, shooter games, etc.) they are just as likely to return to them months later. A new report from The Nielsen Company, “Insights on Casual Games,” looked at data from more than 800 casual games (defined as inexpensive to produce, straightforward in concept, easy to learn and simple to play) for PCs.

“Casual games are very popular, especially in this economic environment, and they enjoy a broader audience than typical, hardcore PC games,” said Brad Raczka, marketing analyst for Nielsen’s Games division. “Not only does casual gaming draw in traditional ‘gamers’ such as teens and young adults, but also prime advertising targets such as stay-at-home moms, retired people and younger kids.”

Based on data from the first six months of 2009,  41 million Americans play casual games on average. Of the top 20 casual game titles that Nielsen tracked in May 2009, card games, played by 88 percent of casual gamers, were by far the most popular. Puzzle games were a distant second at 9.5 percent.

Casual gamers spend less than half the time non-casual gamers do in each session. While casual game sessions lasted an average of 31 minutes, non-casual was more than double, at 80 minutes per session (World of Warcraft helped bump up this average, with an average play time of nearly 120 minutes).

Casual Gamers Come Back For More

Measured over a seven-month period, the recurring game play rate for casual games was found to match or exceed that for non-casual games. For example, about 20 percent of the 47 million unique gamers who played Microsoft Solitaire at least once during the seven-month period, came back to the game at least once in each of the seven months measured. By comparison, about 12 percent of the 5 million World of Warcraft players who played the game in two or more months returned to it at least once every month.

Cost does not make a significant impact in whether players come back to the games month after month. Nielsen found similar recurring game play rates between those using the free Microsoft Solitaire to those playing the for-charge Great Escapes Solitaire.

Females make up the majority of casual gamers (58 percent), a significant shift from non-casual games, which are much more of a man’s world. Males make up a full 75 percent of those playing non-casual shooter games, and 63 percent of those playing role-playing games. The players of non-casual games also tend to have computers with much more memory, averaging over 2 gigabytes, compared with the relatively modest 0.5 to 1 gigabytes of the casual gamers.

Download Nielsen’s Insights on Casual Games

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