By the Numbers
New Survey: Who Is the Online Casual Tournament Gamer? And How Is the Economy Affecting This Emerging, Play-for-Money Segment?
t the height of the recession, numerous reports appeared about how the economy was affecting the casual gaming space. But there has been little follow-up investigation into the impact that the current “post-recession” economy is now having on casual gamers’ behavior. And since we needed to know, we decided to ask. ArcadeWeb.com fits into one of the new, distinct casual gaming and “freemium” segments: free casual tournament sites, where gamers compete to win real cash prizes. Because there was essentially zero data on the casual tournament gamer’s profile, behavior
or motivations—and no information on how the economy may be affecting a segment where gamers play for real, not virtual, rewards—we undertook two surveys this year. They were designed to shed some light on the who, what and why of the casual tournament gamer, and to find out what those consumers say about how current economic realities are affecting their online gaming habits, including time spent playing, online gaming spend, etc. The surveys were deployed in February and March 2012 on ArcadeWeb.com, which has attracted 3.4 million monthly unique visitors (on average) since launching in May 2011. Because our site features distinct “pure” casual gaming and casual tournament communities,1 the demographics and behavior of each population could be uniquely captured and compared. Although over 2,900 of our active gamers participated (1,435 registered tournament players, 1,486 traditional casual gamers), the findings are, of course, specific to our user base and may not be representative of the industry as a whole.
We undertook two surveys designed to shed some light on the who, what and why of the casual tournament gamer, and to find out what those For These Gamers, Recession Isn’t Over consumers say about how the While pundits talk of economic recovery, it’s current economic realities apparently not being experienced by the casual tournament gamers surveyed: are affecting their online • 82% of those polled claim they have as gaming habits, including many financial challenges or more than they had two years ago. time spent playing, online • 53% report that the still-tough economy gaming spend, etc. is having a direct impact on their gaming 12 Casual Connect Summer 2012
habits, and 66% of that majority report it has led them to play more, not less. Significantly more men (62%) than women (48%)—and more people in the western U.S. (58%) than any other region—claim that the economy has transformed their gaming behavior.
The ongoing financial challenges these gamers report is certainly not happy news, but the new data provides fresh confirmation that the economic downturn has been good for the casual gaming sector. And even if the economy strengthens, and people return to higher-ticket entertainment channels, the habits being formed by increased time spent gaming certainly bodes well for casual gaming’s future. Casual tournament gamers who reported they were playing more because of the economy (35% of gamers surveyed overall) were queried on why they have upped their gaming. The top three reasons are stress relief, free entertainment, and the chance to win money (see Chart 1). “Stress relief” generally ranked higher for older gamers, while “free entertainment” and the rise of more tournament sites ranked highest for the young, under-24 set. What is notable is that it’s the “free” aspect of gaming that is driving increased play for more than half of those who reported that they’re gaming more because of the economy. Generally most sites in the casual gaming space, whether big or small, do (at varying
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