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The Core Gamer a Myth? 83

Next Generation explores the possibility that the 18 to 34 year old 'hardcore' male gamer, a coveted demographic, may not actually exist. Research from the NPD Group indicates that most 'heavy use' gamers are younger, between six and 17. From the article: "Frazier explained ... 'The segments were determined by examining player behavior, rather than defining segments demographically. While it's easy to talk about the 18 to 34 core gamer, it's not necessarily accurate. The industry has been in need of much more nuanced information that can be used both when developing and marketing content. In all, 10 behavioral attributes were used to determine the segments, and they fall into four primary areas: ownership of systems, use of systems, frequency of use, and purchase behavior. Segments emerged by minimizing differences within clusters and maximizing differences between the clusters." Is this yet another sign of the 'greying gamer' phenomenon, or simply evidence indicating the marketers have had it wrong all along?
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The Core Gamer a Myth?

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  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Enoxice ( 993945 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:43PM (#16140124) Journal
    Certainly the demographic exists. Whether it is as large or important as previously thought is another question entirely.

    Saying it doesn't exist at all is akin to saying that no 10-15 year olds are interested in programming. I'm sure there are some, but the demographic isn't deemed important enough to cater to most of the time.
    • Of course that demographic exists... I'm in it, it must exist.

      You'd think with recent advances in gaming tech they'd be able to get more accurate results. For instance I have an Xbox 360 and an Xbox Live account (as do most Xbox 360 owners) They know my gender, how old I am, where I live, and what my income is... they also know what games I play and how often I play them... and this data is 100% accurate (considering my personal info is tied to my credit card, and the machine tracks my gaming habits). So
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drsmithy ( 35869 )
        They know my gender, how old I am, where I live, and what my income is... they also know what games I play and how often I play them... and this data is 100% accurate (considering my personal info is tied to my credit card, and the machine tracks my gaming habits). So with Xbox Live, Steam, Playstation Network, and Nintendo's online system... exactly why do we still need to rely on easily inaccurate surveys.

        Because if they actually used that info for anything like that, the Slashdot headline would be in YR

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by whyrat ( 936411 )
      I agree this demographic exists, I'd argue it's how they define it that's the problem.

      18-34 is (imo) the wrong age range. When looking at heavy gaming they need to look at college age (18-24) and filter out the age most people become working professionals (24-34).

      I know from my experience (which is not a very sound statistical tool) my play time dropped significantly around the same time the paychecks started rolling in. Skipping class/study to play games is not the same as skipping work to play games (pe
      • Not forgetting also the decrease of disposable time once you find yourself a partner..

        bah, who am I kidding, this is Slashdot! :P
      • by fotbr ( 855184 )
        Well, I'll be the odd one.

        I spend much more time gaming now that I'm in the "real world". Then again, I also worked my way through school.

        On the whole, though I think you're right....the 18-24 segment is very different than the 25-34 segment. Maybe marketing folks will figure that out when the ps3 flops.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Kelbear ( 870538 )
        This man speaks truth. You can't pack in big blocks of straight gaming as easily when you work mon-fri 9 to 5. There's lots of gaps in college class schedules and study times could be shifted at will.

        Now that I'm working, I play maybe 1-1.5 hours a night. Game time got cut by at least half or more after college. Due in part from the work hours, and the rest due to commute time since I'm not at college where everything and everyone is nearby.

        Even reaching college changed my playtime though. My highschool was
      • An even more important distinction might be that I played alot more games between 18 and 24, but I've spent alot more on games after that.
    • But if it's not that large of a demographic how is it the "core?" Or has "core" here taken on the redefinition put forth by microsoft to be synonymous with "lame" and "not worth thinking about?"
    • World of Warcraft seems to generate the hardcore gamers in the age range they say, if only based on the sheer amount of time I've seen some players spend leveling up, gaining new talents, rare items etc.

    • by donaldm ( 919619 )
      Market research employs statistics and as any one who has studied this subject knows if you select the wrong group or don't take enough meaningful samples all your data is useless and in today's market this can translate to losses in the millions of dollars.

      The market that caterers for kids up-to 16 has to realise that most kids don't earn any money and rely on their parents, so buying an expensive gaming machine (think Xbox 360 and PS3) for the child is not appropriate. I think many parents will look at bu
  • Is this yet another sign of the 'greying gamer' phenomenon, or simply evidence indicating the marketers have had it wrong all along?

    Probably the latter. Figuring out the age of gamers (the real age, not the "im 11" you get in chat) is about as easy as finding out if high school students are honest when taking a survey asking what illegal substances they've used.

    • Re:A/S/L? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by badasscat ( 563442 ) <basscadet75NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @05:52PM (#16141442)
      Is this yet another sign of the 'greying gamer' phenomenon, or simply evidence indicating the marketers have had it wrong all along?

      Probably the latter.

      I'd say it's more likely a little bit of both.

      I am one of these "greying gamers" you're always reading about. I grew up with the Atari 2600 (my cousins had it) and my first console was the Mattel Intellivision. I went for a period in the 1980's and 1990's where I was totally hardcore, and owned all the current systems and just had to buy all the latest games as soon as they came out. (Well, not *all* of them, but all the big ones.) I was at that age where you basically just give in to peer pressure, and I wanted to be able to talk about all these games with my friends in high school and even the first part of college. Then, when I got a job, I suddenly found myself flush with all this cash I never had before.

      I even eventually got nostalgic and built up a pretty sizable game collection (link from my link at the top here). This is still sort of a hobby.

      But then, reality started to sink in. Once you get married and buy a house, everything changes. If and when I have kids (and we're already at the age where we seriously need to decide one way or another pretty quick), I can't imagine ever having time to play games. Even just managing my household, doing various gardening chores and repairs on weekends, I haven't had time to even hook up a system since we moved 6 months ago. I do play with my DS on the commute in to work, but I haven't actually bought a game in 3-4 months for any system.

      I think my life is pretty typical of middle class people. I was a hardcore gamer, but then I got older. Life catches up with you.

      So I think there are hardcore gamers, but most of them probably do eventually grow up. I don't think gaming is something you "grow out of" as much as it's just something you lose time for. And once you're sort of outside that hardcore community, you start to look a lot more critically at the games and genres that everybody else is going so nuts over, and I, for one, have realized that I just don't have a lot of interest in many of the popular titles right now. From what I've seen, this isn't really unusual.

      As for the age cutoff, I think 17 is a little too young. When I was in college, I probably had more friends than ever into video games. We even had semi-organized NHL Hockey tournaments in my dorm. So I do think there definitely are 18-34 year old hardcore gamers, but there are probably a lot more closer to 18 than 34. (I'm 34 right now.) But it wouldn't surprise me if there have always been *more* 6-17 year olds that are hardcore gamers, just because a lot of people probably start to drop off in their gaming as they get up closer to the top range of the 18-34 demographic.
  • I've known several lads in that age bracket, and they do love their games. They also like biking, kayaking, clubbing, and macking.
  • by linzeal ( 197905 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:47PM (#16140176) Homepage Journal
    The gamer friends of mine are either relatively stable types who enjoy playing as a form of entertainment or social outcasts who have become "addicted" to games like World of Warcraft [amazon.com].

    It seems to me that the "core group" they are referring to do exist and in my experience play many more hours per day, with some playing the whole weekends away. They exhibit classic signs of addiction like only associating with people who play the game on a daily basis and hiding the "playing of the game" from family and friends who do not partake in it.

    • by interiot ( 50685 )
      It applies to non-addicts too, who spend all of their free time playing games. Maybe the older you get, the more likely you are to have kids or at least a SO/house, and therefore less free time, but I know one or two people who play as much as possible without crossing the addict line.
    • by kabocox ( 199019 )
      It seems to me that the "core group" they are referring to do exist and in my experience play many more hours per day, with some playing the whole weekends away. They exhibit classic signs of addiction like only associating with people who play the game on a daily basis and hiding the "playing of the game" from family and friends who do not partake in it.

      Um, maybe they don't want to associate with their family, or so-called friends that call their hobbies "addictions." I know that I'm anti-social and really
      • by fotbr ( 855184 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @07:29PM (#16142172) Journal
        No, they won't leave your demographic alone until you become another brainless automaton enjoying $pop-star-of-the-week's canned music and bragging about your stupid acts with everyone else on myspace.

        Until then, you make great fodder for studies and research grants for psychology students.
        • by Morlark ( 814687 )

          Heh, I wish I had mod points right now. Not sure whether it'd be funny or insightful though. :/

          That's one of the big problems with society today: The expectation to conform. It's like they (whoever "they" are) expect everyone to act identically, in their music tastes, purchasing habits, lifestyle... It's absolutely ridiculous.

    • While gaming addicts surely do exist, I think more likely this "classic addiction" is only talking to your friends and family about things that interest you both. I assume you aren't constantly chatting with friends and family about the inane observations and obscure topics on Slashdot.
  • The core gamer does exist, but in small numbers. These numbers are importat because many core gamers are game developers. They want to make the games they want to play. They need to justify the creation of these games, so they have defined themselves as a core audianc
    • by Shanoyu ( 975 )
      They really aren't as important as if humanity were akin to lets say lemmings. Nor are early adapters.

      Sure, early adapters and this sort of core market is important if you're selling something that the mainstream could conceivably want. For example, early adopters may indeed like a new brand of soda, but if I never drink soda to begin with it's unlikely that capturing this demographic will manage to capture my dollars.
  • I would expect any one who plays games to know that the real hardcore group is children. While I my self at 23 play a great deal of games, I still acknowledge my responsibilities and don't spend 14 hours a day playing like most kids will over weekends.

    This can be filed under the "duh!" category..
    • While I my self at 23 play a great deal of games, I still acknowledge my responsibilities and don't spend 14 hours a day playing like most kids will over weekends.

      The magic number is closer to nine or ten hours. There's no way you're going to spend 14 hours playing games unless you're in deep, deep immersion mode. Nine or ten is closer to the average weekend mark. The day goes as follows:

      Get up at around 12-1pm. Spend about 40 minutes eating throught the day. An hour perhaps watching a DVD/TV/Reading (yes r

  • by CopaceticOpus ( 965603 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:49PM (#16140199)
    The core gaming group is more like 14-22 years old, from the time they have actual money to the time they get out of college. (Some will continue for a bit after college, but there's going to be a rapid fall-off.)

    The other big group is parents, buying games for their 6-16 year old kids.
    • by koreth ( 409849 )
      Yep, that seems about right. Back in the day I used to blow through console RPGs in three or four days of very little sleep. Once I got a real job and a steady girlfriend it started taking me weeks, if not longer.

      As a result I have come to prefer a 10-hour-long game to a 40-hour-long one if they both have the same amount of story and/or variety. The 40-hour games are typically 5 hours of new material and 35 hours of repetitive combat to slog through to get to the good stuff.

      • I hate it when reviewers in the varous magazines (most of whom are in their mid 30's) say this 10 your game is too short.

        Perhaps, but you play games for a living. Give me a 10-20 hour game over a 100 hour monstrosity, these days, though I wish I had more time.

  • the core gamer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aleksiel ( 678251 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:50PM (#16140212)
    the core gamer is a high school through college student, whatever the age. they have much more free time per day.

    real life drags core gamers (like myself) down to the level of casual gamer.

    so, i suppose that would make the core gamer 13-22 or so.
    • by amuro98 ( 461673 )
      I dunno, I found that I had much more free time after I graduated from college. No more homework in the evenings and weekends, and my daily schedule was shorter - being only 9-10 hours long, as opposed to the 12+/day in college.

      In high school, I was either busy with extra classes on weekends, homework, piano practice, etc.

      College was much crazier. Besides classes, I was working 15-20 hours a week (and no, the jobs weren't normally conducive to studying.) I was also heavily involved with a club as well.

      • Re:the core gamer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @04:57PM (#16140905) Homepage
        This is the thing, the 18-34 year old gamers are just single men with no families. So, between 18 and 24 there's probably a lot of hardcore gamers, but beyond that, the numbers really start to dwindle. I have a family, and between that and my job, I don't have that much time to which I can devote to TV, Movies, Games, Sports, programming for my own interests, hanging out with friends and any other recreational activities that I may want to spend time on. Gaming simply doesn't come that high on the priority list. I suspect that it's the same for most people in this age group. The only people I know who spend a significant amount of time on games are single people.
  • The article says you can't look at traditional demographics, but then fails to define these new categories/behaviors. The link in the article goes back to the clueless article about the so-called 10 categories of gamers - 5 of which are just different pronounciations of "casual", none of this accuratly describes the behaviors/spending habits of me or many of my friends - past or present.
  • I'll come clean, I've had more than a couple menial jobs (food industry, retail, loan processor). The kind of jobs where you go in, churn away the hours, and go home burned out by the sheer enormous power of the stupidity of the masses.

    I, and most of my male co-workers, would all decompress by playing videogames; usually for hours. If you worked a retail night shift and your job depended on keeping an hour sales average up (at The Sharper Image you have to sell an average of $100/hour each month) you can't
  • Uh, what?! (Score:4, Funny)

    by AdamTrace ( 255409 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:53PM (#16140247)
    "The segments were determined by examining player behavior..."

    So age was determined based on behavior? Can someone think of any flaws with this, or did I misunderstand something?

  • Mario is smiling (Score:5, Informative)

    by captain_cthulhu ( 996356 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:53PM (#16140258)
    If this is accurate, then Nintendo might have the last laugh with their one-size-fits-all approach to gaming. In Japan we are already seeing the sterotypical demographics blend and blur withe the DS and more specifically Brain Age. The Wii claims to be even more non-gamer friendly and potentially tap into the broad games market rather than the 3% hardcore gamer demographic that MS and Sony want to capture.
  • When you think about it, who *really* has disposable income and disposable time? It's probably your typical teenager, with few commitments outside of school and a part time job that can entirely fund a video game habit. Once you get past this point, in college or the real world with a real job, time rapidly becomes a precious commodity. "Hardcore gamers" don't last very long in college (I should know, I basically lost an entire semester...). So, the vast majority of gamers have to work to support themse
    • by donaldm ( 919619 )
      Well it depends when and where you buy your games. Normally I rarely buy a brand new game although I did get "God of War" but only when it went Platinum. It is not that I can't afford the latest game at the premium price but I prefer to wait and given that I like Action/Adventure and RPG's I can easily do this since I like a game that takes many hours to play. For me this has not changed for over 20 years and I don't fit into the 18 to 35 age group being in my late 50's.

      I find that younger people (mid to la
  • 18-34 seems like a fairly useless demographic segment for something like video games. At 26 I'm not even halfway through that group, and since 18 my life has been through a whole bunch of big changes, my gaming habits included.

    High school to college to graduation to getting a job to getting married soon. And I'll likely end up with some kids before 34. I can't imagine that my habits and tastes in regards to video games are usefully similar to those of an average 18 year old or 34 year old.
    • >>"18-34 seems like a fairly useless demographic segment for something like video games." but that's where all the money is or at least the money isn't coming from consumers under age 18. maybe it's the demographic the industry *wishes* was the majority.
  • Next Generation explores the possibility that the 18 to 34 year old 'hardcore' male gamer, a coveted demographic, may not actually exist.
    No wonder Mom threw me a 35th birthday party a year after my 17th! And all this time I've been blaming her heavy crack use, boy is my face red.
  • I'm 29, I consider myself in that group.

    I've got just under 80 PS2 games.

    Every month I average the purchase of 1 PS2 game and 2-3 PC games.

    I also enjoy getting out, have the girlfriend, and don't spend all my time inside.
    Which also means I haven't actually played all the games I own, but I'm still a collector.

    Oh yeah, and I own a PSP, DS Lite, X-Box (only found 2 games I liked on it - Strategy and RPG is my taste).

    And yes, that means if I'll buy a system just to play two games, you can bet I'll be getting a
    • Wow, I feel like I've written this post myself. This won't interest anyone else, but I'll answer for yours and my sake, just so we know we aren't alone ;)

      I'm 29, I consider myself in that group.

      I turned 29 three weeks ago.

      I've got just under 80 PS2 games.

      I'd say I have just over 80. Plus about 50 Xbox games, half that many Gamecube games, and ... probably 200+ PC games. And yes, those are all originals.

      Every month I average the purchase of 1 PS2 game and 2-3 PC games.

      Sounds about right, bu
  • Is this yet another sign of the 'greying gamer' phenomenon, or simply evidence indicating the marketers have had it wrong all along?

    I don't understand where this comment comes from. The alleged "core gamer" demographic was stated to be 18--34, which includes most of us that started gaming 20--30 years ago (though obviously not all), and what the article is trying to say is that the "core gamer" (what they call "heavy gamers") are more closely clustered around 6--17 years-of-age (45% of "heavy gamers" fal

  • Apples and Oranges (Score:5, Interesting)

    by *weasel ( 174362 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @04:03PM (#16140362)
    Game Publishers aim at the 17-34 hardcore gamer because they -purchase- most of the games.
    The NPD study is weighted heavily by -use-.

    Is anyone surprised that K-12 kids have more spare time and fewer entertainment alternatives than college students and young professionals?

  • Of course the Core gamer is a myth! Everybody got shanghaied into buying the Premium just for the hard drive.
  • by Bryansix ( 761547 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @04:19PM (#16140512) Homepage
    Clearly the authors have not seen Grandma's Boy. Don't they know that all 25-38 year olds live with their Grandma and work as game level testers while programming games in their spare time?
  • Forget about kids, they're *so* yesterday. Aging baby-boomers are where it's at. (Although I have a seething hatred for that demographic.)

    Look on T.V. Notice anything lately? You see all those T.V. anchors with grey hair? What about Taylor Hicks from American Idol? Get it? The boomers are getting older, and unfortunately are still the biggest demographic in the U.S.

    In addition, MMOs are getting better and better, and bandwidth is increasing. Add in a bunch of retirees who have absolutely *nothing* to
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Shit, I'm looking forward to it! When I retire I'll finally have the time to get into those 100 hour JRPGs everyone seems to love so much.

      Seriously, when I was younger I looked at my relatives and thought "life ends at retirement". Gaming completely changed my mind, though it's still a shame that I'll have to work until my Soul Calibur reflexes are long gone.
    • I fully expect nursing homes of the future to have some kind of "media lab filled with computers/consoles) where certain residents will spend their time playing games.

      Or perhaps they'll switch to those hospital thin client web browser thingies I've seen lately.
  • I'm a member of the demographic. Whether or not you trust me when I say this is another question entirely, however. :/
  • by Turken ( 139591 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @04:44PM (#16140763)
    From the article: "The Video Gamer Segmentation Report separated gamers into six groups: heavy gamers, avid console gamers, mass market gamers, prefer portable gamers, secondary gamers, and infrequent gamers."

    But if we re-name the groups to better describe who they are, the results aren't too surprising.

    1) 14-20 year old guys. The only people who can easily fit into the first group are those with large disposable time and incomes, so naturally, this will be skewed towards those in high school. But, at one gender and only a few years of the analysis window, it's not surprising that they are only a few percent of all the gamers overall.

    2) Fanboys. They can come in any age, but "avid" console players still need lots of time, so again, the skew towards high school, but not as much so as the "heavy" gamers. Also, the fact that many people mature in college and may lose their fanboyism also drives the skew towards younger kids.

    3) Average Joe Consumer. This is the one to blame for all the sports game rehashes, boring sequels, movie tie-ins, and cartoon show tie-ins. Only buys based on what is popular and/or advertised. The article didn't giva a full breakdown as to how many people were in this group, but I'm willing to bet its the second largest behind the casual/non gamers. Of all the demographics this is the one I really wish would go away, because most game publishers ARE aware of this large market, and hence they push more and more mediocre games every year to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

    4) Commuters. Either the young children who need something to do in the car while mom drives them all over suburbia, or those who take public transportation to and from work. Portable games are there primarily to alleviate boredom when you can't be home playing games. SO, with more gamers actually getting jobs as they grow up, many will shift from consoles to portables. Hence the surprisingly older ages of those who like portables.

    5) People with lives. Gamers who like to play, but don't always have the time or money. Not much was said about this group in the article, so I can't say much here.

    6) Non-gamers. They know what games are beacuse they live with gamers or know gamers, but they don't really have an interest. Big market, but good luck cracking it.

    Anyway, the bottom line is that this isn't really news to anybody who actually watches what is going on in gaming. It is nice to see that the gaming culture as a whole is getting some consideration though. Of course it still doesn't fix the fact that no matter what category each of us falls into, the others will always be the ones to blame anytime the industry starts to falter or stagnate.
  • There's the kid gamer, who's spending power is entirely in the hands of his parents.

    There's the teenage gamer, who will probably spend more money than the kid, spend more time playing games, and explore the social aspect of gaming more. This makes an ideal demographic for in-game ads.

    There's the college gamer, who you might as well not bother targeting since he's going to pirate all his games anyway.

    Of those, you've got a few subgroups:

    The casual gamer who just plays a few games on his PS2.

    The social gamer
    • by bdpf ( 1003778 )
      As an old SIS RPG gamer. How old, I started on a Tandy HX100 with two floppies and 64kb ram. Secrets of the Silver Blades was the big thing for me then before I graduated to Diablo. Hellfire made Diablo better till D2 came out. Then the Expansion disk came with all the different mods for it. D2 LOD is still going strong with it's mods. One of the best is Chaos Empire which helped wear out several computers. This mod keeps this old man YOUNG and gaming. Here is a link to Chaos Empire's Forum. Enjoy.... bdpf
    • The social gamer who likes anything so long as it plants a bunch of his friends on the couch with him.

      Can small developers reach this demographic? Would a game designed for set-top PCs be a viable product, or is the number of video gaming machines without a lockout chip connected to a television set negligible?

      The mobile gamer, who's attention you can never get when you need it, but at least you've got something interesting to watch waiting in line.

      Unfortunately, as I understand it, most mobile device

  • I dispute that there are few old hard core gamers. Since I'm an old gray gamer, with children and Grandchildren that are gamers. I'm glad to say I started them onto this mild form of addiction. PC's started to be house hold items in the late 80's and continued to be popular till present times. Now if you do a little math, considering in the 80's, a gamer would be 12 or above years old. Now I fall in the well above 12 year age in the 80's, mid forties, which now puts me in the gray haired crowd. My friends
  • Many of the 18-34 age group that has been labeled "hardcore" are now 28-44 or older while new games have joined the ranks. The problem with this statistic and what makes it mythical is that it started at a time when home computers and consoles were relatively new. Many of us have grown up with them now. I myself am a couple years past the specified group old enough to remember getting pong for christmas and debating whether Intellivision or Colecovision was better (I was a coleco fan myself).

    I dont reall
  • 34-current have 30+ games installed on my PC, own 2 consoles (ps2+gamecube) and play about 15+hours a week, sometimes more as my time allows.

    I have many friends in the same age bracket who are about as "hard core" as I am.

    When i wasn't employeed the hours played were more along 40+ a week.

    I also have kids and a wife.

    So I am the demographic for the hardcore gamer (maybe not the typical slashdot geek tho).

    Now that my kids are getting older (10,11 and 15) we can play games on our lan which is helping to increa

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