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According to the market research and consulting firm Newzoo, consumer behavior among gamers changed dramatically in 2012, while the video game market overall remained flat.
Between the PC, television, tablet, and smartphone, consumers currently have four primary screens to access entertainment with, and 22 percent of American gamers used all four screens for gaming in 2012. The most money and the most time were spent on PC gaming, while TV came in second for time and money spent.
However there was a dramatic shift from gamers towards mobile devices.
The combination of digital, tablet, and smartphone games led to a decline in boxed sales, but also led to 24 million Americans spending money on gaming for the first time ever, which was helped by the free-to-play business model. Spending by this group is expected to increase over time.
The total number of American gamers rose 8 percent to 157 million, with 55 percent of those gamers actually spending money on games.
Free-to-play is becoming an increasingly prevalent business model for video games. Guild Wars 2 experienced both critical and financial success earlier this year with its subscription-free model, and games like Planetside 2 and Dust 514 are attempting to draw players in with their free-to-play models as well. Cevat Yerli, the CEO and president of Crytek, is also looking to display the merits behind free-to-play with the first-person shooter Warface.
Tablets and handheld devices were able to monetize their content most effectively in 2012; the money spent on games for those devices was twice the amount that was spent on smartphone gaming, despite only having half as many players. Tablets and smartphones also seem to complement each other quite well, with more than 10 million Americans playing games on both devices.
While games on tablets and smartphones, and games with a free-to-play model experienced a surge in 2012, the video game market overall remained flat.
The number of gamers spending money on games increased by 33 percent to 86 million in 2012, but those gamers are spending less money on average. This resulted in an increase of only 1 percent in money spent on games throughout the U.S. The research includes every dollar spent on games including digital and mobile, online skillgaming, pre-owned, import, and DLC.
Overall the research points towards and industry currently experiencing many changes. While there are more people spending more time playing video games than ever before, those people are spending less money and spreading their expenditures across multiple devices, leading to a minimal increase in spending overall.
Have you noticed your gaming habits or those of your friends changing this year?
Email the author Jordan LaPorte, or follow on Game Informer.