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Pushing gamers' buttons

What are today's gamers loving, loathing and looking forward to, ask Paul Twite, director UK & Ireland, Toluna, and Mark Lenel, founding director, Arkenford.

Just 13% of gamers say consoles are extremely good value for money

Just 13% of gamers say consoles are extremely good value for money

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Whether it’s virtual worlds or puzzles, Facebook or consoles, gaming mania is here to stay. But who are today’s gamers, how are they gaming and, most importantly, what do they want?

With more options than ever competing for a gamer’s time, we need to find out. Toluna - the world’s leading independent online panel and survey technology provider - asked today’s gamers what is, and isn’t, pushing their buttons right now…  

Where does all the time go?

With a plethora of different hardware supporting gaming, consoles are claiming less and less gaming time as players increasingly feed their habit through Facebook, other internet sites, smart phones and tablets.

In fact, traditional console gaming now accounts for just a third (34%) of all gaming time.

Not surprisingly, gaming remains hugely popular among the younger age groups; in a moment of self-awareness, more than a third (36%) of our youngest gamers (16-24) acknowledged that they spend too much time playing games.

One interesting shift, however, is that gaming is no longer the sole preserve of the young. According to our study, people over 55 now spend at least half as much time playing games as their younger counterparts. How many of the older generation felt this was excessive? Just 20%.

Live to work? Not quite; overall, a fifth (20%) of our gamers wished for more games and more time to play…

Gaming and the Facebook generation

The dominance of Facebook has not stopped at gaming, and the games available through the social network are many and varied.

The classic virtual worlds concepts (FarmVille being the most well-known) are enjoyed by more than half (54%) of the gamers we spoke to. This is closely followed by puzzle-based games such as Bejewelled or Tetris, which more than two in five enjoy playing (43%).

These, along with ‘hidden object’ games such as Gardens of Time, garner popularity among even the eldest gamers.

In general, social network games come and go very quickly and, on the whole, free-to-play titles hold gamers’ interest for about as long as they remain free. In fact, gamers’ willingness to pay for their passion is very short-lived, especially when an abundance of new (free) experiences are just a click away.

Gamers’ big bugbear

And, talking of free… while console games typically deliver far more content, greater playability, and a much deeper and richer experience than, say, gaming on the web or portables, they are now perceived to deliver much less value for money.

Three out of five gamers (60%) said console games were either a little or far too expensive - with only 13% declaring them extremely good value for money.

By contrast, four out of five gamers (over 80%) said that gaming on Facebook or other websites delivered extremely good value for money or were priced about right. Less than 20% felt that gaming on Facebook, other websites, smart phones or iPads was in any way expensive.

The good, the bad and the boring

So what attracts people to this new genre of gaming? Nearly two-thirds (64%) - and younger players in particular - feel it’s a good way to spend their time. Over half (56%), particularly older gamers, see it as a good diversion.

Almost a third (29%) - and again with a bias towards the young - even rate it above watching TV. One in five (22%) appreciated the opportunity to play with (or against) others online.

Of course, there are also a number of turn-offs. Around two in five (39%) recognised that these types of game can, in fact, be very expensive - bemoaning the ‘freemium model’ whereby the game starts off free but requires real (monetary) investment to progress.

Nearly one third (30%), and primarily younger, less-disciplined gamers, said that these sorts of games are too good, and so cost them in terms of free time. 

Interestingly, just over one-fifth (23%) thought that these games were too generic and similar to one another - yet just 4% deemed them ‘boring’.

It seems there’s a group of gamers out there who think the games are all the same but are not getting bored. Perhaps they watch soap operas as well…

If they could change one thing?

As alluded to earlier, the one thing our gamers would change if they could is price. Comments included: "The main thing is price. I would make them more accessible to families that don’t have much spare cash."

Pricing pressures also prevent a level playing-field, with one gamer saying: "Make them more affordable to everyone so that players can compete on an even basis. At the moment they are heavily in favour of players that spend the most cash which makes players that can’t afford to compete leave the game."

And if price is unmoveable? OK, then make them more complex, more varied, more interesting, with more choice and more storylines - and/or make them more difficult or challenging.

Quite a few gamers, it seems, look to these new genres to be more like traditional console games, with better graphics and more speed. Of course, some gamers still want games to be easier, or at least to include proper instructions.

Technology talks

When given free rein to talk about new technology, there were plenty of calls for the next generation of hardware - Xbox (720), PS (4), Wii (U) - and still a number of gamers demanding more speed and better graphics.

Also notable was the desire for "better", "improved" and "more interactivity" with, specifically, the utilisation of motion sensing and voice-recognition, 3D gaming technology and more immersive, virtual environments.

Comments included: "I like the idea of putting on a piece of headgear and totally immersing myself in a virtual environment" and "more Kinect-style games where you don't need a controller."

So there we have it: gamers young and old show absolutely no signs of pressing the off switch anytime soon. They want more variety, more speed, more complexity, more technology. They just don’t really want to pay for it…

Paul Twite, director UK & Ireland, Toluna, and Mark Lenel, founding director, Arkenford

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