Facebook gamers spending less on their consoles; Microtransactions to climb as new 'hardcore social' segment emerges

Revealed: Console decline linked to social surge

Social gaming is directly contributing to the global decline in console software sales, new data suggests, with masses of people playing and spending less on core systems in favour of Facebook games.

A survey of 1,400 qualified respondents shows that, contrary to popular belief, 69 per cent of social gamers have access to core platforms such as Xbox 360 and PS3.

Of that group, a third said they expect to play less on consoles as a direct result of the entertainment available on social platforms such as Facebook. Just seven per cent pledged to increase their console gaming habits.

The survey results fly in the face of the conventional wisdom that social and core audiences are factionalised with little cross-over.

Twenty-two per cent of the surveyed social gamers said they spent over $100 on core games last year. Forty-four spent more than $50. In the past twelve months, Nintendo’s Wii was played by 31 per cent of the social crowd, while Xbox was used by 19 per cent, edging ahead of PS3 (15%).

But the spending has been in decline, the study suggested. A quarter of the social gamers said they are investing less on core games, and only five per cent say they are devoting more money.

The survey results come amid an anxious time for publishers and platform holders. NPD remains optimistic that the 2011 US software market will stay flat year-on-year, despite continuous reports of monthly declines.

But in the UK, the software market has sunk 12 per cent year-to-date over the same period in 2010.

Such data could be seen as a result of the recession’s impact on consumer habits, but in-game microtransactions on social games are expected to increase or stay static, the study found.

Twenty-three per cent said they would buy more Facebook Credits over the next twelve months, although another 23 said there would be a decrease, while the rest expected the same levels of spending.

‘Hardcore social’

Yet the survey, examined by Develop and conducted by Information Solutions Group, shows that social gaming is itself incorporating a new core audience.

The 68-page study showed that a fifth were paying social and browser games more akin to traditional PC games. These ‘hardcore social gamers’ are defined as playing strategy, RPG, MMO and other ‘traditional segment’ games on social networks.

Information Solutions Group identifies this audience as the big spenders. As many as 59 per cent say it they will increase spending on microtransactions, while 23 per cent expect a decrease. Forty-five per cent say they will increase their usage of social network games over the next twelve months.

Half of the people identified as ‘hardcore social’ said they were playing more than three games across all systems.

Their console playing and spending will remain largely static, the data found.

The wider social demographic is undergoing a tectonic shift, the survey added.

While two-thirds of social gamers are female, they make up just 45 per cent of the ‘hardcore social’ segment. Forty-three per cent of social gamers are over 50, and just a fifth are under 30, yet only a quarter of hardcore social gamers are over fifty while a third are under 30.

The data was pooled by 1,412 qualified online survey respondents, vetted from an initial 2,076 applicants.

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