Friday, October 19, 2007
While the main age demographic for core gamers remains in the 18-34 range, a much younger group of gamers is coming around the bend. According to a recent article in Advertising Age, more and more children around the age of 6 are becoming serious gamers. NPD Group released their annual survey of children and video games this week, which stated that while older children still spend more time per week playing video games, there was a significant spike in the amount of time that children ages 2-5 and 6-8 spent playing. 6 to 8-year-olds spend an average of 75% more time gaming than they used to, with an increase of 3 hours per week. A full half of children ages 2-17 play 6-16 hours or more each week.
However, the transition into serious gamers doesn't just mean an increase in the amount of time spent playing. These children are also switching from "kid" systems to portable and console systems. For the moment, PC's dominate the gaming market for children 2-17, with a 58% usage rate. NPD Group Director David Riley speculates that this is because computers are the most accessible and the least expensive.
So what does this mean for marketers? Well, nothing at the moment. "We are a nascent industry. ... This is not the time to be dabbling in grey areas," said Julie Shumaker, senior VP-sales and marketing at Double Fusion. Kids may be getting more sophisticated with video games at a much younger age, but advertising to children in video games runs into the same issues that television has run into time and time again. Before the age of 15, parents are more in control of what video games get into their kids hands then the kids themselves are, and these concerned parents will not be appreciative of games that send repeated and tailored messages to their children without their knowledge.
Does this mean that advertising can't exist in games tailored to this expanding younger audience? That depends. As children become more sophisticated gamers, they are likely becoming more sophisticated consumers as well, though more research may need to be done on what age at which children can recognize when they are being advertised to. However, until all the rules to advertising in this medium have been worked out, we may be missing out on an ever-increasing young market.