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Gamers Are On The Decline In The U.S.

It seems like everybody is a gamer these days. The rise of mobile and social gaming has turned even the most unlikely of people into gamers. All of the new gamers have even eclipsed what was traditionally the largest gamer demographic – the core.

The NPD released a new report yesterday that says gamers are on the decline in the United States. How big of a decline are we talking about here? The report says that the total number of gamers declined by 5 percent, or 12 million gamers. The U.S. population is now host to the still massive number of 211.5 million gamers.

The major contribution to the loss of gamers has been the traditional core gamer population. Another huge area that was hit was the family gamer market which includes parents who buy games for their children on dedicated game consoles or PCs. Their market shrunk by 17.4 million gamers in the past year.

The shrinkage was offset by growth in two big areas – mobile and digital gamers. The NPD reports that the number of mobile gamers increased by 9 percent to 22 percent of the overall market. The number of digital gamers saw an increase of 4 percent to 16 percent of the overall market.

The rise in mobile and digital gamers have outpaced the size of the still rather core segment. That’s a pretty big deal, but it doesn’t mean that the core gaming industry is doomed by any means. In fact, those social and digital players don’t spend the money needed to keep the industry afloat. It’s the continued contributions of core gamers that feed most of the money into the gaming industry.

“Given the long lifecycles of the current consoles and the increasing installed base of smartphones and tablets, it’s not surprising to see a slight decline in the Core Gamer segment,” said Anita Frazier, industry analyst, The NPD Group. “It’s the revenue contribution of the Core Gamer segment that continues to outpace all other segments, and remains vital to the future of the industry.”

To prove that point, they looked at the average purchase of regular gamers versus core gamers. They found that your average run-of-the-mill gamer spent about $48 on physical games and $16 on digital games. In that same period, the core gamer spent $65 on physical games. The amount of money they spent on digital sales was not revealed, but the Steam summer sale must have contributed quite a bit.

On a side note, gamers can no longer complain about extortive DLC. The report found that 14 percent of all gamers said they purchased DLC in the past three months. That’s up from 11 percent in 2011. The core gamers were even more susceptible to buying DLC with 27 percent saying they put down some money for add-on content.

So what do all these numbers mean? As Frazier said, the gaming industry is in a transition stage right now. People are ready for next gen consoles to come out and are getting tired of waiting. Drops in the gamer population always happen near the end of a console lifecycle, but they quickly pick up again once the new technology comes out. The Wii U may be able to spur some growth this November, but expect the real growth to occur once the Xbox 720 launches sometime next year.