Better Ramp Up the Console Biz -- 2001 Promises to be Lucrative

by Denise Harrison





If the poll-takers have their way, 2001 can line the pockets of console makers, and associated game makers. The new Digital Gaming in America Survey shows a whopping 42 percent of video gamers planning to buy at least one of the next generation game consoles due out by Christmas.

"Video gaming is much more a part of our lives and everyday entertainment choices than 20 years ago," says Lee Uniacke, group publisher of the Ziff Davis Media Game Group, which sponsored the independently-researched survey. "Gamers have become a key demographic target for advertisers and vendors, young males from 15 to 25 years old. That's where movies and television are aimed and that's exactly where video games are."

Of the 42 percent of gamers who were planning to buy a console, 62 percent picked PlayStation 2 (cited as reasons: "Leader in the market, loyalty to Sony, most game variety"), 34 percent wanted an Xbox ("Best Internet access, most technologically advanced, speed and power"), and 33 percent desired the Game Cube ("Best kids games, best game franchises, best adventure games"). Some respondents considered buying more than one console.

The survey also turned up an enticing, sometimes contradictory snapshot of gamers lifestyle choices, according to Ziff Davis:

Thirty-three percent of core gamers -- those who buy at least three games a month -- have tattoos, body piercings or colored hair, contradicting the worn image of the pimply nerd with smudgy glasses.

The celebrities gamers say they'd most like to see featured in a video game mostly came from the sports world: the top ten are Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Tiger Woods, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Jeff Gordon, Keanu Reeves, Allen Iverson, Britney Spears, Derek Jeter and Rusty Wallace.

As the life cycle of old consoles like Nintendo 64 and the first PlayStation wind down, the arrival of the Sony PlayStation II (already on the market), Nintendo Game Cube, Microsoft's Xbox and others promise to jump-start the industry with Internet-ready capability, vastly improved graphics, and even DVD playability offered by these new machines. Uniacke sees the growth cycle continuing into 2005.

The survey paints a thorough and sometimes surprising picture of the lifestyles and buying habits of people who play games on PCs and consoles like PlayStation, Sega, Nintendo and GameBoy.

* Online capabilities are a strong selling point for the next-generation consoles. While 80 percent already have Internet access and 63 percent of those play online games for an average 4.4 hours a week, 48 percent of respondents said they would pay for Internet access strictly through their consoles.

* Gamers are very social and more active than the "couch potato" stereotype. Eighty-one percent of all gamers game with other people. Core gamers spend 2.4 hours a week talking about video games while they cruise in their cars (44 percent), date (35 percent), play football (28 percent), snowboarding (10 percent), and skateboarding (10 percent).

* Core gamers, about 22 percent of the gaming population, are growing in size and influence. They accounted for 61 percent of game sales this year, up from 55 percent in the "Gaming in America Survey" last year.

* Gamers are active consumers. Eighty-seven percent shop for games every month, and sixty-three percent make purchases with credit cards. Seventy-eight percent have a specific game in mind before they go shopping. Wal-Mart ranked number one as the favorite store to buy video games, preferred by 68 percent of respondents. Best Buy came in second at 42 percent, followed by Toys R Us at 39 percent.

"Video gaming has become a big part of the lives of teenage boys today," says Uniacke. "By conducting this study, we get a very compelling profile of these young men -- one of the most desirable demographic target for advertisers. They're the ones who are setting the pace of this industry and of pop culture in general, and video gaming is the common denominator between them."

The blind survey was conducted through national random-digit dialing to find video and PC gamers. The fieldwork closed in June 2001. The study, which queried thousands of gamers, was conducted by The Strategy Group, an independent third-party research company.

Ziff Davis Media Game Group is a leading publisher of console and computer game magazines in the United States. Each magazine is a leader in its field. Electronic Gaming Monthly is a multiplatform magazine covering all popular gaming systems from handhelds and current consoles to upcoming products; Expert Gamer is the monthly guide to console gaming strategy and advice; and Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine is the only magazine to bear the Sony imprimatur in the United States. Computer Gaming World is the publication of record for PC games and hardware.

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