Nielsen: Wii households more likely to be upscale

TV data-tracking company launches gaming service; findings show affluence among consumers of Nintendo's latest system, 42 percent of console gaming in June was on the PlayStation 2.

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While Nintendo's Wii might be the least expensive system in the latest generation of consoles, it's actually more likely to turn up in the homes of the affluent. That's among the findings the Nielsen Company revealed today as it launched GamePlay Metrics, its gaming industry data-tracking service.

Borrowing the infrastructure of Nielsen's well-established TV-monitoring service, GamePlay Metrics combines data from more than 12,000 households (roughly 33,000 people) to report on monthly usage of the major gaming consoles and PC games. The company says GamePlay Metrics can show "who is playing games, on which systems, at what times, and, when integrated with other Nielsen data, illustrates which other media platforms are also engaging gamers and which consumer goods they're likely to buy."

The company is using the data it collects to track a variety of trends. For instance, Nielsen found that Wii households tend to be "upscale," or more likely to boast an annual income of more than $100,000. Nielsen can also examine seasonal gaming patterns; the company found that the Wii's peak usage hour in April was 5 p.m., but since summer vacation started for schools, the system now tends to be used most around 8 p.m.

For the month of June, Nielsen says the PlayStation 2 accounted for 42.3 percent of play time on consoles, trouncing all other systems. The original Xbox was the next most frequently played system, representing 17 percent of the gamers' total play time for the month, followed by the Xbox 360 (8 percent), the GameCube (5.8 percent), the Wii (4 percent), and the PlayStation 3 (1.5 percent). The remaining play time--just over 21 percent of the whole--was divided between all other console systems.

The company is also tracking the number of daily play sessions each console gets, as well as the average length of those sittings. The Xbox 360 had the highest number of sessions on days when the system was played at all, with 2.21, while the PS3 had the fewest of the major consoles, with 1.88 sessions per day. However, those PS3 play sessions tended to be longer than any other system's, clocking in at 83 minutes a pop. The PS2 and original Xbox shared the next longest playtimes, with an average of 62 minutes per sitting, while the GameCube offered the briefest diversions at 55 minutes a session.

Nielsen is also tracking PC games, and its data has World of Warcraft as the most-played PC game in June, with players clocking in an average of more than 17 hours of play per week. All told, World of Warcraft accounted for nearly 18 percent of all PC gaming minutes in the month of June, according to the company's data. The next most frequently played game was Halo: Combat Evolved, which accounted for more than 3.6 percent of PC play time, with players spending an average of eight and a half hours on it each week. The Sims franchise was third, accounting for 3.3 percent of total PC gaming time for the month, with the average player spending less than four hours per week on the game.

"This is the first glimpse of metered in-home video game player data, providing game publishers, console manufactures, advertisers and competing entertainment media with the most accurate, objective, and quantifiable metric available," said Nielsen Games and Nielsen Wireless vice president Jeff Herrmann in a statement. "We believe this will change the discussions surrounding which games get developed for what consoles and how publishers represent their actual audience to advertisers."

According to Nielsen, "GamePlay Metrics uses console data collected from the Nielsen's People Meter TV sample combined with Nielsen GamePlay Metrics' proprietary audio signature library that matches the unique audio signature of every game tracked on the six most widely available video game consoles." PC data is pulled from a game-tracking survey of 1,200 gamers the company has been operating for more than two years.

In the near future, Nielsen hopes to include rankings of specific console games and metering of PC titles. Ultimately, the company also wants to create a tracking method for dynamic and static in-game ads on PCs and consoles. It's working on that endeavor in collaboration with Sony Computer Entertainment America.

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