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UK gamers: more women play games than men, report finds

A new study into British gaming habits has confirmed what many industry watchers have been observing for years: the stereotype of the teenage boy playing alone in his bedroom is well and truly dead. 

Based on interviews with 4,000 UK residents, the research asserts that women now account for 52% of the gaming audience, up from 49% three years ago. The study, which was commissioned by the Internet Advertising Bureau, also revealed there are now more people over 44 years old playing games (27% of the audience) than children or teenagers (22%). The gamer audience reportedly stands at 33.5 million Britons – 69% of the population.

The surge in gaming among new areas of the population is closely related to the rise of the smartphone, which has made games available to a much wider audience than dedicated consoles or PCs. Mobile puzzlers like Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds are free, intuitive and accessible, requiring neither the learning time, nor the expense, of traditional “core” games experiences. The report claims that 56% of female interviewees over 44 have played mobile puzzle games, which emerged as the most popular gaming genre over all, ahead of traditional action adventures and shooters.

Furthermore, 54% of survey respondents cited their phone as their favourite gaming platform – 25% of whom admitted to playing games on it every day. Smartphones were followed by computers (51%), consoles (45%) and tablets (44%).

“The internet and mobile devices have changed the gaming landscape forever,” said Steve Chester, Director of Data and Industry Programmes at the Internet Advertising Bureau. “They’ve brought down the barriers to entry, making gaming far more accessible and opened it up to a whole new audience. In the past you needed to go out and buy an expensive console and the discs on top to get a decent experience, now you can just download a free app.”

However the stereotype that female gamers are interested almost exclusively in casual smartphone titles is tested by the data. 47% of female gamers polled had played a disc-based game in the last six months, and 68% had played an online game. 56% of female gamers have played on a console.

In terms of gaming time, 8-15-year-olds play for longest, racking up 20 hours of gaming a week. However, the average Briton spends six hours per week playing games, which, according to the report, is “just over 11% of their 52 hours of media consumption a week – the same share accounted for by social media and slightly less than listening to music (14%)“. The hours between six and eight in the evening are the most popular for gaming.

Although most people are playing on smartphones, gamers are apparently still playing for longer on traditional platforms. According to the study, the average gamer uses three different devices, and looking at share of gaming time, consoles account for 30%, followed by computers (24%), smartphones (21%) and tablets (18%). The most time consuming types of game are online-focused titles like World of Warcraft and Call of Duty – these take up 47% of gaming time, compared to smartphone apps (23%) and disc-based games (22%).

Despite a general move in the industry toward digitally distributed games – usually via smartphone, PC or console app stores – disc-based games are still selling. 29% of adults brought a new game disc in the last six months and 21% had bought a second-hand game.

The survey, entitled “Gaming Revolution” and carried out by independent research agency Populus, also looked into in-game advertising. Always a tricky proposition in console games, where onscreen ads are often seen as invasive, the new era of free-to-play games has changed attitudes. 61% of respondents said they are happy to see ads in games if it makes them free; they accepted 1.7 ads every 30 minutes in a free game – twice as high as in paid games.

While “hardcore” gaming is clearly still rooted in its traditional user base (playing games is considered the most entertaining media amongst males aged 16-24), what the study shows is a widening audience who are exploring games through new platforms, thanks to the proliferation of new platforms. The suggestion that a quarter of all gamers are now over 45-years-old may well have interesting ramifications for game design going forward. 

But according to the IAB, one of the most interesting discoveries through the 4,000 surveys and 20 in-depth interviews that contributed to the findings, was the immersive nature of the medium. Researchers found that, when UK gamers are playing, they give their full attention. 

“We were really surprised by how captivated consumers are by the gaming environment; once they are playing, they are completely ‘in the zone,’” said Chester. “We hear a lot about how everyone is always multi-tasking but the study shows that games are a unique and engaging environment which requires people’s complete and utter focus.”

Source: Guardian Technology

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