Gameworld: Free games lure new players including women, elderly

Thu May 13, 2010 7:42pm EDT
 
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By John Gaudiosi

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters Life!) - The video game industry has weathered the economic slowdown better than most industries, but there could be a reason -- free games with new figures showing up to a third of gamers don't pay to play.

More people are getting into gaming through free titles like Zynga's "Treasure Isle" played online through social networking sites like Facebook, downloading free games like ngmoco's "Godfinger" on mobile devices like iPhone and iPad, or sitting on a friend's couch to play multiplayer maps with titles like Activision Blizzard's "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2."

New research from video game tracking firm Newzoo found every existing video game platform from mobile to console has an audience of at least 30 percent of non-paying players.

"The shift toward online business models servicing a broader range of target groups started before the recession and has resulted in continued growth through the rough economic times in terms of revenues," said Peter Warman, managing director and founder of Newzoo.

"The platforms offering free-to play-gaming options like massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, mobile games and casual game portals lare successfully converting players to payers."

PopCap.com, a leading game maker in the $3 billion casual games industry, offers free versions of its games like "Bejeweled Blitz" on Facebook, as well as its own site.

"Our belief is that by allowing customers to experience our games for free it's a good way to guarantee customer satisfaction, as they have been able to play the game pre-purchase with the promise of lots more fun to come," said Paul Breslin, general manager, Popcap.com.

The "Newzoo Games Market Report" said one-third of the $25.3 billion that U.S. gamers spent on video games in 2009 came from online revenues (MMOs, game portals and mobile devices) and the digital distribution of console and PC games.   Continued...