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Fewer Americans playing video games

Updated: September 6, 2012 1:40PM

Fewer Americans are playing video games these days, after years of steady growth.

About two-thirds of Americans — 211.5 million people — play video games of all types across the United States, according to a new report from market-tracking firm The NPD Group —s about 12 million fewer than last year.

The drop comes despite an explosion of games on smartphones, tablets and Facebook that had swelled the gaming ranks in recent years. Those mobile and digital games have supplemented the core gaming audience that plays on traditional console video game systems found, according to Nielsen, in more than half of U.S. homes.

But those same console systems — the 7-year-old Xbox 360 and 6-year-old PlayStation 3 and Wii — could be responsible in part for the recent decline. The number of core gamers, who are most likely to play on console systems, fell 2 percent compared with last year, accounting for 21 percent of respondents to an NPD online survey conducted in March. Also down: family/child gaming on portable toy systems.

But the number of mobile gamers grew 9 percent, to account for 22 percent of all gamers. Also on the rise: digital gamers, who download games, some for free.

Gamer segments might be undergoing a temporary shift, says NPD analyst Anita Frazier.

“There is so much change occurring in the industry, coupled with the aging console systems,” Frazier says. “I do believe new hardware systems will bring a much-welcomed stabilizing force and bring more gamers back to bigger gaming experiences.”

Nintendo’s new Wii U game system is due later this year. Microsoft and Sony are expected to introduce new systems in 2013.

Core gamers still spent the most money on games — an average of $65 on physical games during the past three months vs. an average of $48 for all gamers. .

Many are gravitating to mobile games because “of their mobility and improved quality,” says Moe Louk, 29, of Phoenix, who owns a PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita handheld system but increasingly finds himself playing on the iPad. “I can’t really find any more good games on the PS3 that I like. The last game I played was Skyrim.”

But some core gamers find a lack of innovation in mobile.

“Mobile gaming is really bad about abusive ‘freemium’ games that are badly designed on purpose so that they can manipulate players into spending more money on a shallow experience,” says David Jackson, 22, of Chicago, who owns multiple consoles and a gaming PC. “If mobile is going to catch up, it needs better ideas.”

Gannett News Service

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