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Boston Company Looks At The New Gaming Landscape

Not exactly Canadian, but I felt that I would take advantage of editorial license as the company doesn’t state exactly where the survey respondents were from – if they were all living in the USA or not.

Over the past few years, the popularity of mobile phones and tablets have contributed to an explosion in gaming by offering users the newfound ability to game anytime and anywhere. A study [1] just released by the research consultancy, Latitude [2], offers a deeper-dive investigation into the new gaming landscape and the profile of tomorrow’s gamer, suggesting opportunities for both game developers and companies across industries. A complete study summary [3] (PDF) is available for download from Latitude.

The study included a Web survey of 290 smartphone owners between the ages of 15-54 who self-identified as “casual gamers,” with nearly half labeling themselves “game enthusiasts.” More than two-thirds said they expect to be gaming even more over the next few years. The multi-phase The Future of Gaming: a Portrait of the New Gamers study was designed by Latitude to investigate the evolution of gaming, to profile tomorrow’s gamers, and to showcase resulting opportunities across industries for the future of gaming.New Gamers Infographic [4] Smartphone ownership was a criterion for survey participation, but engagement with mobile games was not.

The study found that the stereotype of the reclusive gamer is outdated; this emerging demographic is social, heavily engaged with the “offline” world, and extremely goal-oriented – with a strong drive to improve themselves and the world around them. The new gamers are not constrained to any single platform, and have many different motivations for gaming in addition to just having fun [See New Gamers – Infographic- right]. Moreover, they expect that online games will continue to move out of the traditional screen environment, blending seamlessly with the “offline” world in new and engaging ways that go beyond just “checking in” with apps like Foursquare and SCVNGR.

“This study is part of our larger People Connected initiative, a series designed to offer a snapshot of intentionally small groups who are currently redefining what’s possible through the Web,” says Neela Sakaria, Senior Vice President of Latitude. “We go beyond just identifying changes in technology, delving deeply into technology’s potential impact on us as people – how we think, relate to each other, and approach our daily lives. Profiling dynamic user groups like ‘the new gamers’ gives us a window into how companies can not only develop meaningful tech experiences today but, more excitingly, grasp opportunities that are just on the horizon.”

The study pinpointed three key insights summarizing what the new gamers are expecting for the future:

1. Games Go Beyond the Screen
Eager to get beyond their smartphone screens, gamers are actively seeking new levels of interactivity, more Chart 5 [5]intuitive interfaces (e.g., gestural or telepathic controls), and personalization of the physical world that mirrors what’s possible online. Future games should register and respond to people as they exist in the offline world, which may mean using a player’s location, mood or stress level as metrics in a game, or allowing players to overlay virtual environments or information onto their actual surroundings, as with augmented reality [See ‘New Gamers – Chart 5 – right].

Study participants expressed an overwhelming desire for immersive integration of digital content with traditionally offline spaces and activities:

“The gamers of tomorrow won’t be limited by platform or location. As technology becomes more seamlessly integrated with our lives, everyone will be a gamer, and the world around us will become the ultimate playing field,” explains Natalie Stehfest, a senior research analyst who led the study and who heads up Latitude’s qualitative research team. “Technology will allow us to measure – and, ultimately, improve – ourselves in the context of our daily activities and surroundings. Many people making small changes can have a large impact in society, and this study suggests that the new gamers are ready to ‘level-up,’ and be challenged in this way.”

2. Life Becomes Play
Not only did participants want games to be well-integrated with the offline world in a technological sense, they requested games that better fit into the context of everyday life activities, and could provide added incentive to do things they want or need to do anyways. Currently, a variety of “life games” exist for personal wellness, learning, and even for completing household chores.

3. Social Matures into Societal
The social aspect of gaming makes it particularly well suited to tackling larger societal issues, as people can now share meaningful experiences easily in real-time. Obstacles related to engagement, crowdsourcing, and logistics are removed as mobile platforms make it easier to become an engaged community member or to get involved with socially good causes in a way that feels game-like, either overtly or in a broader, “social adventure” sense.

In conjunction with The Future of Gaming survey, Latitude conducted a series of expert interviews with both game makers and game enthusiasts, culminating in the production of a mini-documentary, The Future of Gaming: a Portrait of the New Gamers, produced in collaboration with In the Car Media. This thought-provoking snapshot of the new gaming landscape serves up fresh, insider perspectives on how games have evolved, and who exactly is playing today – or will be tomorrow. The full video, featuring Buster Benson, CEO of Health Month [7], is available in HD on Vimeo [8].

“Our interviews are meant to bring to life what we found in the study: that the new gamers are connected – often outgoing – people who live and play in the ‘real world,’ and who have a serious interest in bettering themselves and society as a whole,” says Dan Hemmerly-Brown, the video’s director and an Innovation Engineer at Latitude. “These conversations have even inspired Latitude to consider possibilities for building game elements into our own research techniques and technologies.”