NPD: Online Gaming 'Not Affected By the Recession'

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We're downloading more games, playing them online longer, and spending slightly more time per week on average with the Xbox 360 online than either our PCs or PS3s according to a new NPD Group study. The 'Online Gaming 2010' report also found that 54 percent of gamers ages 2 or older play online games, a slight drop from last year's 56 percent.

Digital downloads of total PC games sold inched up a single point from 19 percent in last year's report to 20 percent in this year's (statistically meaningless in terms of actual growth, but certainly "holding steady"). The time we're spending playing online games on the other hand jumped 10 percent over last year's study, from 7.3 hours a week to 8.0 hours total. While the number of online players dipped slightly, the uptick in time spent per player bodes well, says NPD.

"While the percentage of the population that reports playing games has declined slightly, this study details other metrics which point to both stability and growth in both online and offline gaming," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier.

In terms of economic trends, the report found that purchases remained steady for online gamers between 2008 and 2010, something NPD suggests may indicate that online gamers aren't as vulnerable to economic downturns when it comes to game-related spending behavior. The report found that 71 percent of online gamers reported purchasing or receiving a game between October and December 2009.

"The installed base of video game systems continues to grow, the platforms available to play games continue to expand, and the options for content acquisition have never been greater, especially online," said Frazier, though noting that "effective monetization" of online gaming is still hotly debated in the biz.

While the report doesn't cite statistics for mobile gaming, it acknowledges the iPhone's growth and references "social networks" like Facebook as "the hot venue for online gaming," but points out that it's still "unclear which business models are working" in the space.

No surprise, the PC rules the roost when it comes to online gaming with 85 percent reporting it's their platform of choice. While the PS3 leapt 10 points over 2009 to tie the Wii for online gamers (30 percent each) the Xbox 360 held the top non-PC slot for the third year in a row with 48 percent.

And when it comes to the highest average hours per week spent gaming online, the Xbox 360 takes tops, with 7.3 hours versus the PC's 6.6 hours and the PS3's 5.8 hours.

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