It’s no secret that the US videogame industry has been weathering significant changes from within – or lack there of, in some cases – that culminated in a 19% sales decline this past summer, the same period that market research firm The NPD Group found that teens are now spending seven hours per week gaming on mobile devices. That’s a two-hour rise in two years.
According to Kids and Gaming 2013, the way kids ages two to 17 are gaming has significantly shifted since 2011, with many of these changes directly attributable to mobile devices. More than half (53%) of mobile device users are spending more time playing on these devices compared to last year. The proliferation of less expensive tablets and an increase of hand-me-down phones are helping kids gain access to these platforms more frequently.
Interestingly – and not surprisingly – kids are starting to game on mobile devices at a younger age. In 2011, the average beginner was nine years old; in 2013 that age has dropped to eight, and NPD expects that starting age to continue its trend downward.
Desktop computers, laptops and consoles remain the top device types used for gaming, but nearly as many kids are gaming now on mobile devices as they are on consoles and computers.
Yet despite all of this heightened mobile activity, NPD analyst David Riley says the console industry is still far from threatened.
“The console market offers a gaming experience that mobile products cannot, including enhanced graphics, ‘tight’ controls and immersive gameplay, to name just a few,” he says. “And while the time that kids spend playing games on mobile has increased, there’s no indication that mobile gaming is having a negative impact on consoles. In my opinion, the moderate declines in console gaming are due to the age of the current platforms.”
Time spent on mobile gaming isn’t necessarily correlating to a rise in dollars spent. According to another one of NPD’s recent reports, Kids and Apps, free apps account for the majority of downloads made specifically for children, with even fewer paying compared to one year ago. Gaming apps, which last year was the top app type to be paid for, now fall outside the top three in this year’s research.
Riley adds that the upcoming next-generation console launches of Sony’s PS4 and the Microsoft Xbox One this fall will give the gaming industry a much-needed boost in terms of revenue increases and rises in consumer interest and playtime.