Bond University Professor Dr Jeff Brand presented the DNZ16 study findings at a session alongside the NZ Game Developers Conference on Thursday.
Brand noted the importance of finding ways to use the study’s “brutally quantative” data to tell the stories of the potential of games – as IP, weightless exports, contributors to the knowledge economy for developers, and in enjoyment, improved learning and health outcomes for players.
In several ways the study data was as expected. Gradually, the average age of game players is increasing, as it is for the population as a whole.
While some of the numbers have plateaued others continue to demonstrate growth. Around 98% of family homes now have a device that can be used for gaming, barely an increase on the last study and a statistic that’s got zip growth potential. However, the number of devices per household is increasing dramatically.
Brand sliced and diced the data in many different ways. He used some to look back over previous studies to identify trends. For developers, the data offered some guidance for looking forward to consider where in the market the best opportunities might lie.
The obvious one, which mirrors a trend in cinema, is the potential of the older demographic, especially older females. Traditionally perceived as the opposite of a stereotypical gamer (male, teenage, antisocial), from the age of about 50 more women than men play games. The number of older people playing is not small either. It’s not until age 55 that less than 50% of the population are playing games, and 44% of the 75 – 84 age group still play. Even in a country the size of NZ, those percentages translate into reasonable numbers.
Old people are the fastest-growing gamer demographic, and hungry for content. While the study didn’t offer a breakdown of the most popular games in NZ by demographic (Minecraft sold the most units here last year) the study’s vox pop data noted that differences in attitude were mostly driven by age, not gender.
Younger people play to relieve boredom (mobile games especially), older people to keep their minds and motor skills up to snuff. The data showed considerable faith in the idea that games stimulate mental activity (70%) and belief that greater levels of mental activity can help stave off Alzheimer’s (47%).
Just as some years ago film studios began to pay attention to the profit potential of films targeting older females (“anything with Helen Mirren in it” as Geoff Lealand put it during his 2012 BSS presentation), the DNZ16 numbers suggest there’s opportunity in developing games for older women.
Dr Brand’s full presentation is available here. Videos, sections of which form part of the presentation, can be viewed here. The full DNZ16 report, produced by the Independent Games & Entertainment Association and Bond University, is available here.