Contrary to the common belief that computer gamers are mainly teenage boys, the Game Metrix study from comScore Media Metrix has found that video games have much broader appeal, with the average gamer being 41 years old with an annual income of US$55,000 - making gamers an excellent marketing target for non-gaming companies.
The company's quarterly gaming research combines the passive observation of online behaviour (including visits to online gaming and gaming information sites) with the results of a survey of 800 respondents.
Apart from the average gamer being far older than expected, gender was a surprise as well. The study found that females account for 52% of the overall gaming audience. Perhaps not so surprisingly, then, the average gamer has been online for 9 years, and 84% have broadband internet access at home.
When asked about their primary reason for purchasing their last game, the two most common responses among gamers centred on previous gaming experiences, regardless of gaming console or platform used. More then one-quarter of those using each type of device stated that they purchased their last game because they had played it before and enjoyed the experience.
Game sequels also drove gamers to purchase new games. The next most popular responses included "I heard good things about it" and "A friend recommended it", indicating the importance of word-of-mouth recommendations in influencing purchase behaviour.
Embracing the adverts
As part of the study, comScore surveyed both the heavy and light/medium gamer segments regarding their attitudes about in-game advertising. Heavy gamers were defined as those who played games at least 16 hours per week or played games on two or more devices for at least 11 hours per week. Light/medium gamers play video games for less than 11 hours per week. One quarter of respondents qualified as heavy gamers, while the remaining 75% fell into the light/medium gamer segment.
The survey found that heavy gamers were more likely to accept and embrace in-game advertising than light/medium gamers. Nearly four out of ten heavy gamers (37%) agreed that featuring actual products or companies in games make the games feel more realistic, while 27% of light/medium gamers agreed. Half of heavy gamers believe that advergaming (in-game adverts) "is inevitable and will be in all or most games in the future", compared to 42% of light/medium gamers.
"From the advertiser's standpoint, gaming is a potentially powerful medium for reaching consumers who may not be reachable via more traditional means. Previously, little was understood about attitudes toward advergaming among the gamer segments," said Hunter. "The Game Metrix study indicates that heavy gamers are fairly receptive to in-game advertising, provided that the messages appear organically within the context of the game. And a sizable portion of this consumer segment seems to agree that product placement in video games may in fact enhance the game to more closely resemble reality."