Parks Associates has unveiled a study that seeks to eliminate the meaningless terms “hardcore gamer” and “casual gamer”. Kudos to Parks; I’ve always felt that the game industry’s limited vocabulary for describing customers has hobbled design and marketing creativity. (It’s like trying to describe the natural world with just three words: “plant”, “animal”, and “mineral”. You could do it, but you’ll definitely lose something in the process.)
The Parks study revealed six segments:
- Power gamers: 11% of the market, but account for 30% of current spending.
- Social gamers: 13% of the market; enjoy gaming as a way to interact with friends.
- Leisure gamers: 14% of the market; spend 58 hours per month playing mainly casual titles. However, they prefer challenging games and show high interest in new gaming services.
- Dormant gamers: 26% of the market; love gaming but spend little time because of family, work, or school. They like to play with friends and family and prefer challenging games.
- Incidental gamers: 12% of the market; play mostly online games for 20 hours a month, mainly out of boredom.
- Occasional gamers: 24% of the market; play puzzle, word, and board games almost exclusively.
The study also found that the social aspects of gaming were important to a large percentage of players overall — not just social gamers. Unsurprising.
If nothing else, this study will hopefully wake people up to the fact that there’s a ton of money being left on the table. 26% of the market (“dormant gamers”) is being ignored by most companies, even though, according to Parks, they “actually spend the highest dollar value per gaming hour.” Perhaps that makes this category of gamer particularly ripe for high-quality episodic gaming (at a high hour-per-dollar cost). And perhaps it also suggests opportunity for a whole new category of game that doesn’t even exist yet.
All that said, I have a few minor gripes about the verbiage adopted by Parks. For example, “occasional gamers” and “dormant gamers” could have been labelled better. “Occasional” doesn’t convey that these people play puzzle games almost exclusively, and “dormant” is misleading, since it implies that an “awakening” is possible (but most of these people will never want to spend more time on gaming, and should be catered to as such. That’s why I used the term “low playtime gamer” in an article a while back.) Perhaps the segments that tend toward casual titles should all express that fact somehow; i.e. “casual enthusiast” instead of “leisure gamer” and “casual time-killer” instead of “occasional gamer”. OK, room for improvement, I know — but you get the idea. ;-)
Anyway, hopefully the game industry will adopt some variant of the terms suggested by this study. Then maybe conversations about the market won’t seem so dismally black and white.