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Who, When and How A Closer Look at Video Game Measurement

3 minute read | April 2010

Research from Nielsen Games shows there is a “prime time” for video game play in the U.S., just like television, with the peak time for play between 7-11pm. But should an hour of video game play be thought of by advertisers the same way as an hour-long prime time TV drama?


As a way to help get better answers for media companies and advertisers, and to begin to establish a standard metric for game play that can be compared to other media measurement, The Nielsen Company teamed up with Microsoft and conducted a pilot study that took a closer look at the video game-playing audience. Initial findings from the study were presented at this week’s Ad:Tech conference.

To get a clearer picture of who’s playing what, when, and for how long, watermarks were placed in Season 2 of the Xbox LIVE game “1 vs 100.” Using the same Nielsen panel used to measure TV, we were able to draw comparisons between a video game audience and a TV audience. For example, while Nielsen’s Video Game Play metrics can provide a snapshot of who’s playing a specific console, the addition of the watermark provided the ability to get specific audience data on a title-level.

The consumption of Xbox 360 console usage minutes by 18-34 year olds is generally 45 percent. When looking at the gamer profile for Xbox LIVE’s “1 vs 100” game show, 18-34 year olds made up 55 percent of the player set. These specific metrics help to provide the type of insights advertisers and media planners need to compare video game platforms to other types of media.


Nielsen data for the Xbox 360 shows that month-to-month, between 20-25 percent of Xbox 360 consoles are active during prime time hours in Nielsen homes. With the Xbox 360 being a multimedia device capable of not only playing games, but also movies, TV content, music, and social media interaction via Facebook and Twitter, the need to measure all of its capabilities has been a popular client request.

Time Spent Playing

The Nielsen and Microsoft joint study evaluated 13 weeks of programming from November 2009 through February 2010. The Xbox LIVE game show “1 vs 100” was available for play in two forms, “1 vs 100 Live” in which a live host, Chris Cashman, provided commentary and real prizes were awarded, as well as “1 vs 100 Extended Play,” where players could practice in more condensed, theme-based versions of the show.

Based on panel and meter date, the average length of play for “1 vs 100” (both Live and Extended Play sessions combined) is more than 70 minutes. More impressively, , the average length of play during “1 vs 100 Live” is87 minutes. Both types of play offer advertising integration during the “game breaks” after each set of 10 questions.


“Advertisers should be very interested to see the amount of time consumers spend interacting with these games – especially during those appointment-based ‘1 vs 100 Live’ sessions,” said Gerardo Guzman, Nielsen Games. “What makes this pilot study so important is the potential for precise audience segmenting. As more game companies and advertisers participate in studies like these, we’re able to define and refine an efficient set of metrics for gaming that can be compared against other media.”

“Our independent research shows that gamers are very engaged while playing, especially during Live Play,” said Carolyn Fuson, Sr. Audience and Analysis Manager, Xbox LIVE Advertising. “In one specific case, an advertiser who placed ads within the games saw notable brand recall and lift. Our ability to learn more about the audience can only be a positive to those brands looking to make an impact on the growing gaming community.”

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