Study: Video games resilient in recession

Average number of DVD purchases unchanged in January

NEW YORK -- The video gaming industry remains less affected by the recession than other parts of the media and entertainment industry, according to a new Nielsen study that shows high engagement of gamers.

For example, compared with DVD purchasing and movie-going, gameplay and game purchasing show increases month-to-month since last year, according to Nielsen, which is the corporate parent of The Hollywood Reporter. The average number of DVD purchases for January was unchanged, and the average number of movies seen in the past two months was down 3%, while the average number of total games purchased in the past six months was up 18% and hours of gameplay per week was up 13%.

Both self-reported and electronic audience measurement data indicate an overall increase in minutes of gameplay per month across all gender and age segments. Importantly, males ages 18-24, a demo that contains more gamers than others, show increases in gameplay ranging from 16% to 24% each month so far in 2009, said Nielsen. Females ages 13-17 show gains of 12%-30%.

Among gamers who reported playing more in 2009, 36% cited liking their game system better, and 34% said they liked the games better this year, Nielsen found.

In other findings of the study, 42% of the 2,400 gamers polled by the media measurement firm plan to play more than last year, and 35% claim they plan to spend more on gaming than last year, according to the findings.

Forty-one percent say they continue to play the same amount as last year and 39% say they will spend the same amount of money on games, despite the fact that half of gamers polled claim to be negatively affected by the recession.

This increase in gameplay time during a recession can be explained by a recent increase in used game purchases, Nielsen said. From January through May of this year, the average number of games purchased used in the past six months increased from 3.01 to 3.51, while the average number of games purchased decreased from 10.35 to 9.75.

This fits in with figures from video game retailer GameStop, which reported that in the first quarter used game sales increased by 31.9%, while new game sales were down 2.8%. The success of used games has also led other retailers, such as Best Buy, to start selling used games.

Consumer data indicates that this preference for used games may also be brought on by fewer blockbuster game releases this year, so gamers are more inclined to purchase used older favorites, according to the Nielsen study.

Gamers are also beginning to substitute the purchase of new games with subscriptions to video game rental services from such companies as Blockbuster and GameFly.