Half of the U.S. Population Plays Casual Games

altoidsIt’s been a big week for gaming. The cool folks over at research company Interpret have released some pretty impressive numbers regarding casual gaming. We’ve already known that about 70 percent of women over the age of 40 play casual games, but the new research suggests that some 145 million people in the U.S. played casual games over the last year. That’s about 50 percent of the country’s population. Well… okay, 48 percent, but who’s counting change.

Additionally, the Entertainment Software Association revealed research this week that says 38 percent of gamers are female and spend an average of 7.4 hours per week playing games, specifically massively multiplayer online games, such as Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft, and casual games like Bejeweled or Solitaire. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s just as much time as the average American citizen spends eating and drinking per week (8.75 hours), more than they spend purchasing products (5.11 hours per week), more than they spend caring for and helping household members (3.92 hours per week), and more time than they spend talking on the phone (1.54 hours per week).

“I’m a full-on gamer, and my husband hates me,” reported one woman. “More and more, husbands and boyfriends are playing second fiddle to computers and consoles.”

Some of the other interesting facts revealed in Interpret’s study found that about 85 percent of people who play casual games would rather have free, ad-supported games instead of having to pay for them. Additionally, the research revealed that the average time spent per week playing casual games increased between third quarter and fourth quarter 2007, from about 4.0 hours to 5.1 hours, and that casual gamers, on average, make 2.7 online purchases each week, which is higher than the general population that only make 2.4 per week.

To quote Michael Dowling, Interpret’s CEO:

“The ability to engage [casual gamers] in a relative media vehicle, where they spend an average of fours a week, can enforce a brand message or further their knowledge about brands. Active casual gamers are 22 percent more likely than the general population to seek out information about new products, but are also 36 perfect more likely to switch brands just for the sake of change. These characteristics make them a potential envoy for launching brands and open to switching away to a competitive model.”

The Interpublic Emerging Media Lab has produced a primer to help familiarize people with the gaming space. It’s currently available here.