Hardcore Gamers are so 2007
As the growth of iOS and Android mobile devices continues to explode, there is a tectonic shift in the landscape of video gaming, a medium that continues to reach the most powerful spenders in the economy. Not only are these emerging platforms attracting droves of existing gamers, but also spawning a new and highly engaged audience: the mass-market mobile casual gamer. The era of marketing singularly to the 18 – 34 hardcore male gamer is officially over.
Given the sheer size of the video game industry, this is a watershed moment. In January 2011, according to the NPD Group, 2010 worldwide video game revenue, excluding hardware, exceeded $15 billion. Strikingly, console game sales were down by 5% in 2010 over 2009. PC sales were up slightly by 3%, primarily due the release of the latest StarCraft installment by studio veteran Blizzard Entertainment. As Flurry described in its analysis last year, hardcore gaming is facing competition from more mass-market-friendly gaming apps on mobile devices. In particular, iOS is taking a bite out of portable platforms.
Below are two charts that demonstrate how age and gender demographics vary between the traditional gaming audience and mobile social gamers.
Reviewing the charts, it’s clear that mobile social gaming is attracting a much stronger female base, as well as a younger average user. Among mobile social gaming, there is also greater density in the 18 – 49 year old bracket, which indicates that iOS and Android devices are attracting users during their earning years versus, in particular, their teenage years, where they likely cannot afford more expensive mobile devices.
Mobile Bigger than Console, Portable… and TV
Just how big is the audience in this new era of smartphone mobile gaming? Consider that Flurry has detected over 250 million unique iOS and Android devices in the market, and is detecting more than 750,000 new devices daily. According to recent reports, this installed base is larger than the combined worldwide installed base of console industry leaders Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3, estimated at approximately 180 million units. Likewise, iOS and Android devices command a larger installed base than the combination of portable game platforms Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, which recent estimates peg around 200 million devices worldwide.
Further sizing the segment of users that plays mobile social games, the audience exceeds that of any U.S. primetime television show, the best of which can top 20 million viewers on days airing new episodes. Contrast this to the 26 million unique users Flurry already detects 365 days of the year, and who spend more than 25 minutes per day in social games. On a broader scale, Flurry monitors more than 300 million user sessions across all games and apps. A whopping 37% of these are from games.
The Consumer behind Social Games: a Marketer’s Dream Target Audience
The audience playing mobile social games is beginning to attract the attention of major advertisers. For this study, Flurry used a sample of over 60,000 social gamers on iOS and Android who self-reported age, gender and location. For parts of this report, where we focus on the U.S. segment of the audience, we further crossed location information with United States zip codes to leverage U.S. Census Bureau data for deeper segmentation.
Let’s start by looking at the concentration of mobile social gamers by international region.
The chart above shows that mobile social gamers live in more developed economies, with the highest concentration in North America, followed by Europe. This hints strongly at a similar geographic footprint to iOS and Android penetration to date, with Asia beginning to grow more quickly as Android, in particular, finds increased distribution in this part of the world.
Next, we display a cross-tabulation of age and gender in a bar chart format for our worldwide sample. This provides the opportunity to study how male and female usage varies across age ranges.
From the chart above, it’s clear that female mobile social gamers are older than their male counterparts. While males have a slight lead in usage in the 13 – 25 year old range, more women play between 26 – 44 years of age. Additionally, referencing the earlier age comparison between traditional and mobile social gamers, the latter are younger, with an average age 28.2 vs. the traditional, more hardcore gamer, who is more often male with an average age of 34. Just below, we display separate charts for age and for gender.
The U.S. Mobile Social Gamer: Affluent and Educated
Studying the U.S. mobile social gamer, we note that she earns over 50% more than the average American, is more than twice as likely to have earned a college bachelor’s degree, and is more likely to be white or Asian.
The video game industry is transitioning from an era of hardcore male gamers who have dominated the landscape, to more mass-market usage across mobile social games. 18 – 34 year old males are being supplanted as the most attractive segment to target by big brands and agencies. The Mobile Social Gamer segment is highly engaged, younger, made up of more females, more educated and more affluent. In terms of usage behavior, they use social games far more often than they watch prime-time television shows, and using for 25 minutes per day, are heavy users of this interactive content. Mobile social gamers are the new mass-market powerhouse.
In the history of high tech corporate incumbents facing market disruption, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop’s blunt, provocative “burning platform” memo, where he describes a blazing platform, upon which his company has poured gasoline and now must abandon for its very survival, has become an instant classic. While history will ultimately reveal whether Mr. Elop’s bold call to action was delivered in time to save Nokia, Flurry can look to trends from the app development community as an early indicator for whether it will support the new Nokia-Microsoft (“Nokiasoft”) partnership.
Flurry periodically measures the relative support that developers dedicate to different platforms by tracking new application starts within its system, especially when there is a major market event. For example, prior to the shipment of Apple’s iPad, Flurry reported both increased activity and rates of project starts. A Flurry new project start is recorded when a developer adds the Flurry SDK to its pre-release application. 38,000 companies have created projects using Flurry.
This week, with the early speculation and subsequent announcement that Nokia and Microsoft would partner, Flurry measured a 66% increase in Windows Phone 7 project starts over last week. However, since we only began Flurry Analytics support for Microsoft Windows Phone 7 five weeks ago, we went back in our records to ensure what we were seeing was not an aberration.
For an apples-to-apples comparison, we studied Flurry new project starts for the first five weeks of support for each of the following platforms: Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7. We then normalized the measurement to show a relative vs. absolute comparison (percentages vs. actual numbers). The results are presented below.
Reviewing the chart, it is interesting to note the similarity in relative growth of Android and Windows Phone 7 project starts. When Flurry launched its support for Android in October 2008, there was doubt in the industry around the viability of Android as a development platform. Back then, the sentiment was that Android would capture market share as a mobile operating system, but not necessarily as an application development platform or an ecosystem where developers could thrive. 180,000 apps later, Android answered its critics.
Likewise, prior to today’s announcement, many questioned the viability of Windows Phone 7 as an operating system that developers would support. Moreover, there was doubt that Microsoft as a company could muster enough momentum to gain relevance at this stage the mobile platform race. From Flurry’s point of view, this week’s spike in Windows Phone 7 developer activity shows that developers not only believe Nokia has given Microsoft Windows Phone7 a shot in the arm, but also that Nokia and Microsoft together can build a viable ecosystem.
While Android ultimately became a vibrant platform, it’s also important to note the relative drop off in BlackBerry’s project starts over the same initial period. It appears that developers voted down BlackBerry as a viable third contender to Apple and Google in the first five weeks of Flurry’s support. Months later, the market proved these developers right.
Yet, despite the rising development cost to build for multiple platforms, developers continue to demonstrate their willingness to support a multi-platform world, where they believe real business opportunity exists. As one of our developer-customers once told us “I would develop in assembly language, if I thought I could make money.” With spiking support for Nokia and Microsoft, developers are showing us they believe.