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Nielsen digs deeper into gamer data

As the video game console continues its march towards controlling virtually every type of media-driven leisure time pursuit that exists, our knowledge about consumer usage in this space is also getting a whole lot more comprehensive. Through its National People Meter sample of 12,000 US TV households, Nielsen is able to mine a startling amount of information about who's gaming when, and the latest report from this ongoing research project shows steady growth all around.
April 1, 2007

As the video game console continues its march towards controlling virtually every type of media-driven leisure time pursuit that exists, our knowledge about consumer usage in this space is also getting a whole lot more comprehensive. Through its National People Meter sample of 12,000 US TV households, Nielsen is able to mine a startling amount of information about who’s gaming when, and the latest report from this ongoing research project shows steady growth all around.

The US console household universe has increased in size by 18.5% in the last two years, outstripping the growth of total TV households, which checked in at 1.6% for the same period. And at any given minute, around 1.6 million Americans ages two and up are using a video game system of some kind or another.

But the landscape looks even rosier when you drill down into more specific demo segments because the degree of console penetration in homes is at its highest with kids two to 11 (at 70.7%) and 12 to 17 (79.8%). We all know that boys are generally hardcore users, so it’s no shocker that three out of four in the two to 11 sample group used a console at home for at least one minute in Q4 2006; in fact, they averaged 2.5 hours of usage a day. But console reach was solid in non-traditional corners as well, with half of all teenage girls also hitting the one-minute mark in Q4.

And it’s interesting to note that gaming has a prime time, just like TV does. Console usage amongst boys 12 to 17 peaks from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. most nights, and in terms of days of the week, the average gaming audience is at its largest on Saturdays.

Connectivity is also up, with 16% of households that own a Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360 or Gamecube subscribing to a service that connects their system to the internet – and that’s without including Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PlayStation 3, which were both released in late 2006. Even if they’re not hooked up, more console owners have embraced their game platforms’ multimedia capabilities; in fact 50.7% of this group with a DVD player at home ID’d their console as one of their DVD players.

The bottom line is that everyone – and especially kids and teens – is spending way more time interacting with game consoles on many different levels, and that presents an increasingly tantalizing proposition for advertisers, who’ve tentatively begun to partner up with developers to reach gamers where they live.

And keeping pace on the measurement side of things, Nielsen is gearing up to move beyond survey-based research later this year to deliver metered video game usage and demographic info. R&D on the project has involved rewiring Nielsen’s existing People Meter set-top boxes to monitor video game usage by game title, genre and platform. The goal is to provide a system of valuation that can serve as a guide for buying and selling advertising in the world of video games.

The company was still working on its pricing strategy for GamePlay at press time, but the service will roll out in July. And although the plan is to eventually provide new data to subscribers every week, it’ll be updated monthly to start.

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