New Report Shows That 87 Percent of Americans Now Play Casual Games Online

12:47 PM PST 02/29/2012 by John Gaudiosi

While Facebook remains the dominant gaming platform, there are many other online gaming sites that are contributing to the $4.5 billion casual games market.

Multitasking is now part of the entertainment landscape. Consumers watch television while texting on mobile devices or playing CityVille on Facebook. All of this time devoted to casual games resulted in a $4.5 billion global haul for game companies in 2011. According to a new trend report focusing on online casual and social games from market research firm Newzoo, 126 million Americans, or 87 percent of the 145 million U.S. gamers ages 10 to 65, play games on social networks or casual game websites. Online casual and social gaming takes 39 percent of the 215 million hours spent on gaming each day in the U.S. and 29 percent of the money spent on gaming.

While Facebook dominates the social gaming space in the U.S., attracting 60 percent of these gamers, 41 percent of time spent gaming and 38 percent of money spent in games, there are other growing sites like Pogo, AGame, Miniclip, AddictingGames, BigFish, Yahoo! Games and King.com.

“An amazing 76 percent to 93 percent of all gamers play on gaming sites outside of Facebook,” said Peter Warman, CEO of Newzoo.“Combined they take 36 percent of all time spent on games globally. These online game destinations are often overlooked by press and market analysts who dedicate their attention to massively multiplayer online (MMO), mobile and social gaming.”

The online casual games market, traditionally offering free ad-supported games, is gaining more and more traction when it comes to consumer revenues. All the casual websites combined attract a significantly larger gaming crowd than Facebook, even in the U.S. Partially driven by the rise in player acquisition costs, game companies have increasingly turned towards these destinations, integrating their free-to-play games with in-game business models.

To get consumers to spend money, many of these games have a higher level of engagement and have extended the range of genres available on these websites.  The uptake of so-called mid-core games has created a significant shift towards more paying male casual as well as social gamers. These changes are giving the consumers more opportunities to spend money where they spend time, closing the current gap between the two resulting in significant revenue growth.

“Despite claims that games on social networks show limited growth potential, Facebook and local social networks in European, Asian and emerging markets remain essential to any game company’s strategy, simply because the majority of people spends a large amount of his or her online time here,” said Warman. “That’s even more true in emerging and Asian markets, where social networks often are the primary entry to the web for consumers . I was therefore not surprised to see that social games monetize relatively well in these younger markets compared to the West, at least in terms of share of people spending money.”

Free-to-play games are generating revenue around the globe. According to the new report, 28 million Americans, 22 percent of the 126 million casual gamers, are paying to play games via micro-transactions and other revenue forms. Asia leads the globe with 46 percent of its players paying for online games. Europeans are less likely to spend money on games with only 18 percent currently doing so.

Other interesting statistics from the report found that only 8 percent of online casual or social US gamers spends all his or her online game time within social networks. This is higher in Europe (19 percent) and emerging markets (15 percent). Also, 87 percent of U.S. Facebook gamers also plays games on casual websites.

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