Smartphones and social networks are gaming’s future

Britain has more online and console gamers than anywhere else in Europe, according to the 2009 UK National Gamers Survey. A staggering 73% of those questioned regularly play games, with many ranking gaming as their favourite pastime, ahead of surfing the internet and watching TV.

Young men between the ages of 13 and 19 spend on average 11 hours per week playing games, and boys as young as eight admit to gaming seven and a half hours a week.

The findings from TNS and demonstrate that gaming could soon start to replace the internet and TV as the country’s favourite pastime, and has already overtaken reading newspapers and magazines. Even the historically smaller gaming segments are getting in on the act: 86% of girls play games and an astonishing 42% of people over the age of 50 say that they spend more time gaming than reading magazines.

Despite the downturn hitting Britain harder than many of its European neighbours, Brits are also the most likely to pay for games. While 10% of gamers in the Netherlands admit to regularly making illegal copies of popular console games, only 4% of Brits do the same.

The study also reveals that mobile phones and social networks such as MySpace and Facebook are the game platforms of the future, although they are yet to properly take hold in the UK, where only 11% of the gamers on social networks indicate that these are their primary gaming destinations – less than half that of the US. In the UK, the introduction of the iPhone and other smartphones pushed the mobile telephone as a gaming platform up to 20% in the last year, double the level achieved in other European countries.

According to Stephen Palmer, group director at TNS Technology: “Gaming has rapidly expanded in popularity and now appeals to as wide an audience as TV and the internet. In several cases, young and old are even moving away from traditional media and spend their free time playing games instead. The variety of games on offer has drawn in segments of the population that would not ordinarily be associated with gaming, which has turned the traditional view of the ‘gamer’ on its head. With the pressure put on media through advertising cuts, gaming is emerging as the forum through which to target consumers of the future.”

Peter Warman, from added: “With the growing part of games being played and paid for online there is no other way to monitor the complete games market than asking the people themselves.”

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