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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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July 16, 2008 3:18 PM

Gamers getting older, other new industry stats

Posted by Brier Dudley

Are video games no longer a young person's sport?

The average age of game players has risen to 35, according to a new report today from the Entertainment Software Association.

"No longer is there a stereotypical gamer. With deeper market penetration and the broadening of our audience base, video games have incorporated themselves into America's cultural and social fabric,'' Michael Gallagher, association chief executive, said in the release.

It said U.S. computer and video game sales reached $9.5 billion last year with 267.9 million units sold, up from $7.4 billion and 241.6 million units sold in 2006.

Other findings highlighted by the group include:

-- 65 percent of American households play computer and video games.
-- 38 percent of American homes have a video game console.
-- One of four gamers is more than 50 years old.
-- Women 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (33 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent).
-- 41 percent of Americans expect to purchase one or more games this year.

Gaming is also becoming more social, the report said: 59 percent of gamers play in person with other gamers, up from 51 percent in 2006.

The association's research also threw out some statistics that you'll see the next time there's a flap over children being exposed to violent games:

-- 94 percent of parents are present when games are purchased or rented.
-- 88 percent of parents report always or sometimes monitoring the games their children play.
-- 63 percent of parents believe games are a positive part of their children's lives.

But then remember the source. The trade group's research is based on a survey of about 1,200 households that own a game console and/or a PC used to play computer games.

The expanding demographics is convincing. Leaders of Seattle's casual gaming industry have been saying the same thing for years, and we'll hear more about that next week during the Casual Connect conference here.

I wonder, though, if some of the info gathered from parents was wishful thinking. Do nine out of 10 parents really "always or sometimes" monitor the video games their children play?

The definition of monitor is probably key. Or maybe, now that the average gamer is 35, those parents are just waiting for their turn at the controls -- 72 percent of parents who play video games with their kids say it's fun for the whole family, and only 50 percent say it's a good opportunity to monitor game content.

ESA also released lists of the top-selling video games and PC games of 2007. The top 10 non-PC games, in order:

-- "Halo 3," Xbox 360
-- "Wii Play" with remote (should this have been ranked as an accessory?)
-- "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare," Xbox 360
-- "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock," PlayStation 2
-- "Super Mario Galaxy," Wii
-- "Pokemon Diamond Version," Nintendo DS
-- "Madden NFL 08," PlayStation 2
-- "Guitar Hero 2," PlayStation 2
-- "Assassin's Creed," Xbox 360
-- "Mario Party 8," Wii

On the PC, these were the top-selling games, in order:

-- "World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Expansion Pack"
-- "World of Warcraft"
-- "The Sims 2 Seasons Expansion Pack"
-- "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare"
-- "Sim City 4 Deluxe"
-- "The Sims 2"
-- "Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wards"
-- "The Sims 2 Bon Voyage Expansion Pack"
-- "Microsoft Age of Empires III"
-- "The Sims 2 Pets Expansion Pack"

"The Orange Box" from Valve was 11th.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.