Press Release – Paul Thelen, founder and chief strategy officer of Big Fish Games™, the world’s largest casual games distributor, today revealed new research that challenges the conventional thinking about audience profiles in the video game industry. The results of a recent study show gamers can no longer be classified into the traditional archetypes of core and casual fans due to the rapid diversification of the demographics, game styles, business models and platforms in the U.S. games market.
In partnership with NPD Group, Big Fish Games surveyed nearly 3,000 U.S. individuals who play games, and matched the results across demographics, game mechanics, and psychographics. The study identified 14 distinct segments of gamers within 39 genres of games. The casual market was segmented into 10 distinct groups, while four segments were identified within the traditional core market. However, the segmentation calls into question the relevancy of the terms casual and core, due to a great deal of overlap and similarity between various casual and core segments once thought to be disparate.
Conventional strategies have normally classified gamers into one of two main groups, core and casual, and by association to their device – consoles for core players, and downloadable or online PC games for casual play. The new study shows that these lines of differentiation are very blurry at best.
Conventional wisdom previously held that core and casual gamers rarely play games outside of their favored game style. While the study reinforced the fact that most gamers have favorite genres, it also showed there is tremendous crossover and broad usage across many game genres by all segments. Core gamers engage with casual genres as much or more than core gamers engage with other core genres, and vice versa. The study showed that the “Heavy Action” gamer segment (young males that had a preference for shooters, racing, driving mayhem, fighting, realistic sports, and heavy role playing games) were also most likely to play games in the “Nancy Drew” segment (games typically preferred by older females such as match 3, brain teaser, mahjong, word, hidden object, jigsaw, trivia and puzzle adventure games).
Additionally, the study revealed new insights into the level of time commitment displayed by casual gamers versus core gamers. While “Slow Strategists” (fans of turn-based strategy role playing games) and “Fantasy Worlds” (participants in online fantasy MMORPGs) spent the most hours playing per week, some casual segments such as “Tycoons” (simple simulation and tycoon games) and “Clickers” (time management, marble popper and brick buster games) spent more hours gaming per week than the largest of the core gamer segments, Heavy Action.
“These results imply that continuing to categorize a gamer as only a core or casual player is limiting in its ability to fully describe the gamer,” said Paul Thelen, founder and chief strategy officer of Big Fish Games, during his keynote speech at the Casual Connect gaming conference in Seattle, Wash. “The ability to break apart the industry into a wide variety of segments provides the ability for companies to focus on the emerging opportunities that are masked by broad generalizations.” Thelen continued, “Saying ‘We are in the casual games business,’ could mean up to a dozen things and without additional specificity it is not much more useful than simply saying, ‘We are in the games business.’
The study further revealed the market opportunity in several casual game segments continues to approach those of core game segments. This is due to the large population of self-identified casual gamers relative to core. Gamers in the largest casual segment, labeled as Nancy Drews, spend less per year than the Heavy Action gamer segment, but there are almost 40 percent more customers in the Nancy Drew segment. Additionally, some casual segments like “Frenetics” (platform jumping and rhythm games) and “Dancers” spend more per year than the Heavy Action gamers.
“The gaming industry is far too large and too diverse to be all things to all people on all platforms in all areas of the world. For companies to be truly successful, they need to focus on an audience, a business model and a platform,” stated Thelen in his keynote address. “Going after the casual or core audience lacks the specificity to have any real meaning and will not help define your vision enough to be successful.” He continued, “Big Fish Games focuses on partnering with the top game developers in a few specific, but extremely popular game segments, which has allowed us to emerge as the world’s largest online distributor of games.”
The NPD Group will be publishing a report detailing the survey and its findings.