Nielsen: Wii Played Less than Xbox 360, PS3

Wii gamers play fewer days per week and for less time at a go according to a new study from Nielsen and GamePlay Metrics. I know, there's a surprise. Here's another: PS3 and Xbox 360 owners spend more time gaming and watch considerably more TV. Even GameCube owners surpass Wii owners for general usage, slotting in Nielsen's "heavy" utilization category compared to the Wii's middling "medium" ranking.

Nielsen gets most of that from an "active user percentile" rating. That number tells Nielsen how often someone used their console out of a total amount of time the console could have been used during the measurement delta.

So much for meaningful usage stat tracking using abstractions like the Nintendo Channel. That said, either you see this as support for the contention that Wii owners aren't serious gamers, or — earnest flip side here — that Wii owners take a more balanced approach to the medium, engaging in activities other than gaming and TV couch-plopping.

Interestingly, when you look strictly at console utilization, it turns out PlayStation 3 owners use their consoles as a group more than any other console type that Nielsen tracks.

Sidestep to computer gamers and Nielsen says the largest group is females (ages 25 to 54) at 29 percent, compared to males (ages 25 to 54) at 20 percent. What do they play? Solitaire mostly, with 4.6 million unique female and 3.1 million unique male players. The first non-casual game in either gender column is World of Warcraft — ranked seventh for both — with 429k female and 676k male players. Curiously, no sign of The Sims, but here's a head-grabber for all you flight-sim grogs: IL-2 Sturmovik 1946, the compilation version of the best World War II flight sim ever released in my immodest opinion, garnered the highest average minutes per week for a given player...albeit with only 6,978 unique players.

Nielsen's key takeaways:

- More sophisticated consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 attract the more engaged console users, who are less likely to be watching television in Prime Time than users of other consoles.

- The PlayStation 2, while still leading all other consoles in total minutes of usage, continues to have the highest downward trending rate of usage. Trending data suggests by the end of 2009, the PlayStation 2 will no longer be the most used console in the United States. [My note: Curiously, PlayStation 3 usage minutes also trended down for the year.]

- Females 25 years of age and older make up the largest block of PC game players accounting for 46.2 percent of all players and 54.6 percent of all game play minutes in December 2008.

- The most played games on the PC are card games from Microsoft, with the most played game being Solitaire with over 17 million players for the month of December 2008.

- Females 55+ over index in terms of their PC game play versus all other demographic groups.

What about the veracity of the study? Well, Nielsen says they're sourcing the console data from a sample of 17,000+ U.S. television households and claims it's monitoring usage of any device attached to the TV.

Overall significance: Fun with numbers for armchair pundits, otherwise it's of practical relevance mostly to what Nielsen defines as "the $70 billion television advertising industry."

Matt Peckham still wonders how you get to be a "Nielsen family." For more gaming news and opinion, park your tweet-readers at twitter.com/game_on.

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