PopCap, the Seattle-based casual game developer behind the “Bejeweled” series, today presented a study on US and UK consumers who play games on social networking platforms finding that, contrary to popular belief, the average social gamer is a 43-year old female.
According to the study, almost 24% of the 5000 survey respondents play social games at least once a week, indicating that the social games market in the US and the UK has grown to a total of almost 100 million consumers. 55% of social gamers are female while 45% are male and the average age is 43. It is notable that US social gamers tend to be older than their British counterparts, with an average age of 48 (38 in Britain) and 46% of American social gamers being 50 or older while only 23% of social gamers in the UK belong to that age group. In the US and the UK combined, only 6% of all social gamers are age 21 or younger.
The survey also found differences in the consumption of and attitudes towards social games between men and women. More women than men play social games several times a day (38% vs. 29%), and women are more apt to play social games with real-world friends than men are (68% vs. 56%) whereas men are more inclined than women to play with strangers (41% vs. 33%). Also, women are much more likely to play with relatives than men (46% vs. 29%).
The survey also provides evidence for the growth of social games. More than half (56%) of social gamers have been playing social games for more than a year but about one quarter (26%) only started playing social games withing the last 6 months. About a third (35%) of social gamers say their consumption of social games has increased over the past three months, compared to 10% who said it has decreased.
“This study establishes social games as a fast-growing and quickly maturing pastime for an enormous portion of the population,” noted Robin Boyar, founder and principal at Thinktank Research, a market research consultancy specializing in gaming and the digital consumer.
And these social gamers are playing with great intensity. Almost all social gamers (95%) play multiple times per week and nearly two-thirds (64%) play at least once a day, suggesting that social games truly do get you hooked, though this is more true for U.S. players (68% are daily players) than for U.K.- based social gamers (55%). Social gamers´ most popular games for weekly or more frequent play are Farmville (69% of all social gamers who play Farmville say they play once a week or more), Bejeweled Blitz (65%), Texas Hold’em Poker (63%), Cafe World (61%) and Mafia Wars (59%).
The survey also revealed the main reasons for playing social games. Most social gamers cited “fun and excitement” as their main motivation (53%). Stress relief (45%) and “competitive spirit” (43%) were next most popular respectively, followed by “mental workout” (32%) and “connect with others” (24%). Interestingly, only 17% of UK-based social gamers chose “connect with others” as a reason for playing, compared to 28% of their U.S. counterparts.
As for the social networks that users choose to play social games, attracting 83% of social gamers Facebook by far leads the pack compared to 24% who play on MySpace, 7% on Bebo and 5% who play on Friendster. Given that 49% of social gamers log into social networks specifically to play social games and that social gamers on average spend 39% of all their time on social networks playing games, social games have become a major source of traffic for social networks. As Boyar puts it,”With more than 80% of social gamers stating that playing social games strengthens their relationship with friends, family and colleagues, social gaming reinforces the core appeal of social networks.”
According to the survey, word-of-mouth is the most common way that social gamers hear about new social games. 57% of social gamers rely on a recommendation or in-game alert from a friend while 38% said they learn about new games from ads on social networking sites and 27% cited standard web searches as a source of information on new social games. Social gamers have played an average of 6.1 different social games; 39% have played between three and five social games and 13% say they’ve played more than 10.
Finally, the study revealed that 53% of of social gamers say they’ve earned and/or spent virtual currency in a social game, but only 28% have purchased virtual currency with real-world money and only 32% have purchased a virtual gift. Nearly a third (32%) of social gamers say they’re likely to purchase virtual items with real-world currency. A quarter of social gamers say they’ve been misled by an ad or other “special offer” tied to a social game they’ve played.
More detailed survey results and the survey´s methodology are available at