Online Casual Gaming Anything but Casual, MTV Networks Study Finds

‘An Exploration of Online Casual Gaming’ Finds Strong Emotional and Physical Engagement with Online Games Across Nearly Every Age Group

NEW YORK, July 23 / — Online casual gaming holds an exclusive place in the lives of gamers’ of nearly all ages because it is both emotionally and physically engaging, according to MTV Networks’ new study: “An Exploration of Online Casual Gaming.”

As part of the study, 3,520 interviews were conducted among gamers from ages 8 to 60 in five different demographic groups: Kids and Tweens; Teens; Young Adults; Adults; and Boomers. While all of the groups were actively involved with gaming, they had different reasons for being strongly connected to online casual games. Younger gamers participated to do things they can’t do in real life. Among adults, moms used games as “my time” to relax and escape, while dads used games to recharge themselves and compete. Boomers said they felt physically transformed after playing online because the games kept their minds sharp and refreshed.

“Whether it’s competition, aspiration or relaxation, online casual games often serve necessary emotional and physical functions for gamers, making these games more ‘crucial’ than ‘casual’ for those who play most,” said Colleen Fahey Rush, MTVN’s Executive Vice President of Research. “While the reasons for playing vary among age groups, it’s clear that online casual games play an important and often essential part in the lives of gamers.”

Among the entire study, seven in 10 surveyed were frequent visitors to casual gaming sites, visiting at least once a week. The field spent an average of 12 days per month on the sites and 92 minutes per visit. Gamers treat casual gaming sites in a far from casual way, as three in four surveyed spent at least a half hour on each visit to gaming sites. Adults and Boomers were the most likely to visit casual gaming sites every day, as nearly half of the group visited regularly, according to the study.

Segmenting the Casual Gaming Market

MTVN’s casual gaming study found six different segments of casual gamers: Time Fillers; Rechargers; Virtual Me; Gaming Enthusiasts; Guilty Pleasurists; and Average Joe Wannabees. The Time Fillers came from all age groups, but were most likely to include stay-at-home moms who said that gaming was the perfect way to kill time when there was “nothing better to do.” Rechargers spent 92 minutes playing games every other day, which was the highest among all of the groups, and consisted largely of adults and boomers who rewarded themselves with games that left them refreshed and energized. The Virtual Me segment — mostly Kids and Tweens — used the games as an opportunity to do things they couldn’t do in real life, from flying to caring for a pet. The Gaming Enthusiasts, which mostly included Kids, Tweens and Boomers, appreciated the adventure and accomplishment that accompanied casual games and spent 88 minutes every other day engaged with them online.

Guilty Pleasurists love the fact that gaming is a great way to “blow off some steam,” however they do have some associated guilt as it can often take them away from other things they feel they should be doing. Despite their hesitation, the group — consisting mostly of students — still averaged 75 minutes of gaming two times per week. The Average Joe Wannabees spent an average of 80 minutes playing every other day, but they didn’t want to tell anyone about their gaming obsessions. The majority of the group was constructed of Teens, Kids and Tweens.

“This study proves that the conventional wisdom around who plays online casual games doesn’t match the new reality,” said Dave Williams, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Nickelodeon Kids and Family Games Group. “Casual games continue to gain broader appeal across demos and, as a result, the opportunity to serve more audiences and capture more value from these games is greater than ever before.”

Where and What They Play

The study found that online gamers talk about and share their favorite games, with 49 percent of those surveyed claiming they find gaming sites through friends. Search also plays a big role, with 40 percent of respondents utilizing search engines to find games sites. No single site dominated the casual gaming category, but there was high satisfaction among all of the sites that were used. The most popular gaming destinations listed by the surveyed group were gaming-specific sites and included MTVN’s ( and (, both of which recently introduced new site-wide community features. Action and adventure games were most popular with Kids and Tweens, while puzzle games were the favorite among Adults and Boomers preferred card and casino games like the silver lioness slot game.

The Role of Advertising

Of those surveyed, 90 percent preferred having advertising on gaming sites to paying a fee for games and many were open to branded games. Surprisingly, dads were the group most willing to pay for games, which was echoed by the fact that overall, males were more likely to pay for games than females.

Dads also had the best reaction to branded games, as 34 percent of them held a better impression of a product or brand after playing a sponsored game. Overall, the study concluded that consumers react positively to branded games in which the product and message are integrated and game is fun.

The complete results of the study are available upon request.

MTVN’s Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group is home to Addicting Games and Shockwave, the preeminent social gaming sites on the Web. AddictingGames is the number one independent gaming site, coming off its best month ever in June 2008 with 10.7 million unique visitors, who spent on average of 30.5 minutes on the site during each visit (comScore Media Metrix). Shockwave, the original casual gaming site, hosts more than 400 games, including more than 100 exclusive self published titles.