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According to the most recent report from NPD Group, online gaming for video game consoles and portables enjoyed a statistically significant increase from 19% in 2008 to 25% in 2009. PC online gaming experienced a slight decline over the same time period, although it remained the most widely used platform for online gaming activities.

The report titled Online Gaming 2009 which provides an updated, trended analysis of the online gaming landscape, focuses specifically on consumers’ behavior, time and money spent in this market.

At 50%, Xbox 360 remains the console online gaming leader, despite the noteworthy changes among other major console systems. For example, use of Nintendo's Wii increased from 18% in 2008 to 29% in 2009, while PS2 fell dramatically and PS3 moved up from fifth place to third place. This is a testament to the strength of Xbox 360, both overall, and particularly in the online gaming sphere.

According to the report, the percent of online gamers ages 13-17 increased from 17% in 2008 to 22% in 2009, while the share of 18-34 year olds, as well as those 35-54, decreased slightly. These shifts indicate that online gaming may have become more appealing to 13 to 17 year olds compared to last year, a theme that is echoed by the growth in teens using a console system for online gaming, and a relatively proportional decline among adults, especially ages 25-34, across several systems.

“Online gaming is enjoyed by a diverse group of players. The sheer variety of content and ease of access makes online gaming attractive to a much larger demographic than what we typically see in retail,” said Anita Frazier, industry analyst at NPD Group.

The percent of online gamers purchasing at least one game for a console system has increased slightly since 2008, as has the percent purchasing for a portable system. That slightly more people report that they are purchasing more games compared to last year may be an indication that the games industry is recession resistant. For example, 10 months out of the year in 2008 saw increases in video game unit sales, with the other two months seeing a decline in large part because of the release of Halo 3 for the Xbox 360 in September 2007, and an additional week in the January 2007 retail calendar.

In terms of micro-transactions, Xbox 360 and PS3 owners are downloading more content than owners of other systems. Overall, however, downloading has slowed compared to 2008. This slow-down in micro-transactions might be countered by focusing on expansion packs - generally, the most popular type of download - and particularly teens and heavy online gamers.

The report is based on online survey responses from just over 20 000 members of NPD’s online consumer panel ages 2 and older (respondents age 2-12 were captured via surrogate reporting). Respondents had to personally play video games on a PC, video game system or device used for gaming. In order to qualify as an online gamer, respondents had to use one or more of the following systems to play games online: Nintendo DS/DS Lite handheld system, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Sony PSP handheld system, Xbox, Xbox 360 or PC. Both online gamers and gamers overall (whether online or offline) were included in the study. The survey data is weighted to represent the U.S. population of individuals ages 2 and older. Fieldwork was conducted from January 6–26, 2009.

Tags: Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, PlayStation Wii, Xbox

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