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Nearly one-quarter (24%) of consumers say they regularly play games on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace––and contrary to prevailing stereotypes, the typical social gamer is a 43-year-old woman, according to a new survey from PopCap Games.

The total social gamer population is now at 100 million in the US and UK alone. In addition, worldwide social gaming revenues are forecast to reach $1.3 billion in 2010, according to Lazard Capital Markets.

Below, other findings from PopCap's 2010 Social Gaming Research study, which explores social gaming in the US and UK.

Women make up 55% of social gamers. Only 6% of gamers are age 21 or younger, and 58% are age 40+.

Below, the percentage of social gamers in various age groups:

  • Less than age 30: 20%
  • Age 30-39: 21%
  • Age 40-49: 20%
  • Age 50+: 38%

Most (41%) of social gamers have a full-time job. Retirees make up 13% of the social gaming population, followed by homemakers (11%), part-time workers (9%), and the unemployed (9%).

Among US gamers, 42% have an undergraduate degree or higher, 36% have some college or trade-school education, and 21% have a high-school education or less.

Gender Differences

Women are more avid social gamers and are more inclined to play with people they know:

  • 38% of female social gamers say they play social games several times a day vs. 29% of males who say so.
  • 68% of women say they play with real-world friends vs. 56% of men.
  • 46% of women say they play with relatives vs. 29% of men.
  • 41% of men say they play with strangers vs. 33% of women.

Frequency of Play

Most (95%) of social gamers play multiple times per week, and nearly two-thirds (64%) play at least once a day. Over one-third (34%) of gamers say they play several times per day.

One-third (33%) of social gamers spend less than one hour per week playing social games, while 38% spend 1-5 hours, and 28% spend six hours or more per week playing.

Playing Preferences: Facebook Dominates

Facebook (83%) is by far the most popular destination for social gamers, with MySpace a distant second (24%), followed by Bebo (7%).

In the UK, Facebook is even more predominant (90%) among gamers than it is in the US, while MySpace is less popular (12%) than it is in the US (30%).

Moreover, about one-half (49%) of the time that social gamers log in to Facebook or to other sites they do so specifically to play games.

Activities Performed by Social Gamers

Social gamers spend on average 39% of their time on social networking sites playing games, followed by chatting with/messaging friends (17%), and playing non-social (solo) games (15%).

Social gamers in the UK tend to chat/message slightly more than those in the US.

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Virtual Currencies

Social gamers are reluctant to spend money on virtual items: 53% of social gamers say they've earned or spent virtual currency in a social game, but only 28% have purchased virtual currency with real-world money, and only 32% have purchased a virtual gift.

Viral Growth

Word-of-mouth is the most common way that social gamers hear about new social games: 57% of social gamers rely on a recommendation or in-game alert from a friend; 38% say they learn about new games from ads on social networking sites, and 27% cite standard Web searches as a source of information on new social games.

Game Consumption

Social gamers tend to play their favorite games with great frequency: FarmVille (69%), Bejeweled Blitz (65%), and Texas Hold'Em Poker (63%) are the top 3 games played at least once a week, followed by Café World (59%) and Mafia Wars (59%).

With the exception of the game Bejeweled Blitz, US social gamers tend to play the various social games more often than UK social gamers.

Social gamers play on average 6.1 social games. Over one-third (39%) say they play 3-5 five social games, while 13% say they play more than 10.

Social Gaming Relationships

Social gaming reinforces the core appeal of social networks: 62% of social gamers agree that social games allow them to reconnect with old friends, colleagues, and classmates. Similarly, 63% say social games have been a source of new friendships, and 70% say social games make them feel more connected to other members of their social networks.

Meanwhile, 62% of social gamers say they play social games with real-world friends, while 56% play with friends they've made online, and 37% say they play with strangers.

Fun and excitement (53%), stress relief (45%), and competitive spirit (43%) are the top 3 reasons cited for playing social games. Nearly one-third (32%) of gamers like the mental workout, while 24% play so they can connect with others in their social network.

About the data: The survey was conducted by Information Solutions Group (ISG) for PopCap Games. The Results are based on 1,202 online surveys completed by members of Toluna's Internet ePanel in the US and UK January 7-12, 2010. Of the 1,202 respondents, 800 (67%) are from the US and 402 (33%) are from the UK. 

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