Study: Europe second-largest gaming market

Nielsen research reveals US ranks third behind Asia and EU in consumer spending on software; 31 percent of Europeans 16-49 in primary regions actively game.

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Wii Fit and a few other exceptions not withstanding, game makers operating on a global scale typically tend to favor the North American and Japanese markets over European audiences when it comes to getting their product on retail shelves. It may come as no small surprise, then, that the latest study by industry trackers Nielsen Games reveals that Europe is second only to Asia in terms of consumer spending on gaming software.

The report, which is available in summary through the Interactive Software Federation of Europe's Web site, indicates Europeans in the region's nine major markets spent €7.3 billion ($11.3 billion) on software in 2007, a 25 percent year-over-year increase. That's compared to Nielsen's estimates of €6.9 billion ($10.6 billion) in the US during the same period and €7.4 billion ($11.4 billion) in Asia in 2006, the most recent statistic available. (According to the NPD Group, US console and handheld sales hit $8.6 billion in the US, with another $911 million accrued through PC software sales.)

Further delineating that $11 billion haul, Nielsen said UK gamers led spending with €2.3 billion ($3.6 billion), with France following at €1.6 billion ($2.5 billion), Germany at €1.4 billion ($2.1 billion), Spain at €700 million ($1.1 billion), and Italy at €600 million ($0.9 billion). Nielsen also said that the arrival of the PlayStation 3 and Wii had boosted hardware sales to €5.7 billion ($8.8 billion) in Europe, up from €3 billion ($4.7 billion) in 2006 when Microsoft's Xbox 360 was the only current-gen console available.

Nielsen's research also produced a font of miscellaneous information concerning the European market. Polling respondents ages 16-49 in UK, Finland, and Spain, Nielsen found that 31 percent of the population considered themselves active gamers. With the average game player aged 35 in the US according to the Entertainment Software Association, Nielsen said UK gamers top out the European active-gamer range at age 33, with Spaniards clocking in at the youngest average age of 26.

Across Europe, 40 percent of people who play games do so for 6 to 14 hours per week. Of those who don't play games, 48 percent said it is merely because they do not have enough hours in the day. The study also found that 81 percent of parents who play games in Europe do so with their kids.

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