The new report from the NPD that has been spreading like wildfire has made its rounds to most prominent gaming sites. The one thing that the report focuses on is how 5% of the core North American gaming audience has dropped off the face of the gaming planet and are instead playing more digital and mobile games. The only problem is that they mislabeled “core gamers”.
GameIndustry.biz gives a brief rundown of the NPD numbers, and it states that currently the totality of gamers playing games in the American territories is 211.5 million.
According to the report, core gaming was down but mobile and digital gaming was up, in fact mobile gaming was up by 22% compared to 2011 and digital gaming was up by 11% compared to 2011. What was down? Core gaming...console gaming. Down by 5%, according to the report.
According to the NPD, mobile and digital gaming is now ahead of core gaming by a significant margin. Anita Frazier, industry analyst for the NPD Group, stated that...
"Given the long lifecycles of the current consoles and the increasing installed base of smartphones and tablets, it's not surprising to see a slight decline in the Core Gamer segment,"... "It's the revenue contribution of the Core Gamer segment that continues to outpace all other segments, and remains vital to the future of the industry."
Ahahaha, yes because core gamers gave up consoles and portables to play on smartphones and tablets?
There's a misrepresentation in the decline.
All this year the industry has seen retail declines. According to the Seattle Times May saw a 28% decline from the previous year. According to Venturebeat July say a dive by 20% compared to the previous year. And according to PC Magazine, August has seen a decline by 20% compared to the previous year.
Now according to the NPD, these numbers must obviously relate to core gaming, when in fact these numbers speak more about casual gaming than core gaming.
The 5% dropoff wasn't from gaming's elite, the movers of big product and high-end interactive entertainment experiences. The move away from home consoles is from casual gamers. How can you know? Because casual gamers have been the big movers and joiners this generation. You think Call of Duty sells 20 million copies each year to the core elite? You think the over-saturation of bloated marketing is aimed at targeting the armchair warriors and brand-loyal fanboys?
The numbers relating to the decline tell a very complex story. The actual drop in sales is a topic for another time, but the percentages still tie into the fickle nature of casual gaming.
One major indicator is that the Wii's fad is over with, the software has dried up and the shovelware is no longer finding much of an attachment rate to a stable audience, which was the main reason why games like Carnival Games and Wii Play dominated the NPD for years. Just check out the numbers from the March sales of 2007 or April's NPD from 2008. When you compare those to the links above from The Seattle Times and PC Magazine, you'll see a steady decline in the casualware, which indicates a partial steady decline in casual console gamers.
The decrease from home consoles and the increase in mobile and digital gaming seems to tie more-so into that similar trend of casual gaming buying habits and not the buying habits of core gamers. I tend to doubt gamers gave up playing Max Payne 3 and Sleeping Dogs to start playing Zynga or EA's mobile and digital offerings like The Ville and SimCity Social. The psychology just doesn't make sense based on the demographic hook for what's currently available on phones and tablets.
The other major issue is that controls continues to be a serious problem when it comes to mobile gaming. Relying on touch-screen mechanics for racing, moving characters around or shooting is not reliable or stable enough to mimic core gaming experiences. If the problem hasn't been fixed it makes it hard to see how actual core gamers would move from a reliable mechanic in console gaming to the less reliable mechanics of touch-screen gaming.
More than anything, the 5% dropoff probably has a much higher level of branching numerical statistics attached to it than simply core gamers moving from consoles to mobile devices because the offerings are better, in which case the offerings are not. Mobile gaming still has a ways to go before it has quality games on par to the like of Uncharted, DarkSiders or Borderlands 2.
The NPD Group plans to release more stats on their findings regarding the mobile statistics. It will be interesting to see what the stats look like when they become available.