Market research firm NPD has released a report estimating that more than half the population of the United States plays games as a leisure activity.
Back in January, ubiquitous market research group NPD polled ~21,000 Americans about how they spent their free time - to be precise, if they spent their free time gaming. From the sampling, NPD recently published in their 2009 Gamer Segmentation Report, the group extrapolated that the number of gamers swelled by 4.3 million in 2008, from 165.5 million to 169.9 million. As Gamespot points out, given that the population of the United States was estimated at 304 million people in July, this means that over 55% of the country plays games in some form or another.
Of course, that "some form of another" is pretty crucial to the study. The report breaks gamers down into seven categories, the largest of which is "Secondary Gamers" (33.6 million), comprised of mostly older females who play less than 4 hours per week on the PC, and own no consoles. The second largest (and fastest-growing) segment was "Console Gamers" (32.9 million), who own one or more dedicated game consoles and play around 12 hours per week.
Third was the "Heavy Portable Gamers" (30 million) group, who were the youngest - average age of 19 - and also the group that showed the most signs of shrinking. The smallest section would be the "Extreme Gamers," who put in a whopping 40 hours per week. That's like working a 9-to-5 job, only... with videogames.
It's pretty much what we've come to expect - your Peggle-addicted mom might not consider herself a gamer (and hey, you might not either) but she counts for the purpose of the survey. The hardest of the hardcore are the smallest of the groups, which is unsurprising given the recent trends for "core" companies to try and branch out and capture some of these elusive casual gamers.
The full Gamer Segmentation Report can be purchased at the NPD website.