Gaming on the social networks, especially what is termed "casual gaming", is becoming a standard pastime for users of tablets and smartphones, as sales of these devices continue to soar. Games designers and vendors will need to take this trend into account.

American consumers like playing video games. The US gaming population has risen from 56 million in 2008 to over 135 million in 2011. What’s noteworthy about this trend? The fact that this increase is not due to games consoles, which are losing their market domination, but instead to smartphones and social networks. A study carried out by Parks Associates shows that the increase in gaming is one result of the increasing penetration of devices such as tablets and smartphones. Three quarters of tablet owners – a figure that increases to 79% if we take only teenage tablet owners – are gamers, as are 57% of smartphone owners.

No demographic barrier to on-screen gaming

This switch in the preferred devices used to play games means that it’s now vital for games designers to take into account the ubiquity of portable devices and the needs of on-the-go gamers when they develop their modules. But they also have to take on board the diverse range of profiles of their customers. "The increase in the number of gamers is impressive because it crosses almost all demographics," says Pietro Macchiarella, a Research Analyst at Parks Associates who co-authored the study. It’s also interesting to note that the most popular games are the well-known casual games and social network games such as Angry Birds and Farmville. In parallel the growth in numbers of "hardcore gamers" has tailed off over the last few years.

The market is changing 

The research analysts found that while users definitely prefer games for multiple players, they nevertheless tend not to game in synchrony with each other and they prefer the more intuitive games that require a limited investment in terms of time. These are changes which carry significant implications for the gaming industry. "This new majority of casual gamers is looking for games with low entry barriers, with limited investments required in terms of dollars and time necessary to learn the game", concludes Pietro Macchiarella.