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Calling all gamers ...  Come here, I want to count you

Posted: 04.12.11

At least once a week someone asks us how many gamers are there? We then have to go into a long series of questions to qualify the answer so we can try to quantify it: PC, console, handheld, or mobile phone? "PC," answer the person. So then we ask: Extreme enthusiast, enthusiast, mainstream, or casual?

That usually gets an "Ahhhh… - what's the difference?" Then we know we're in trouble and the answer is not going to be satisfying. But we go for it anyway, that's just how we are.

Extreme enthusiasts play intense first person shooters and flight sim (on-line or singular) and have the most powerful computers, latest and best graphics, 24- to 30-inch displays, often more than one. Extreme enthusiasts will often play in tournaments and LAN parties. Some may play for money. Extreme enthusiast gamers are also often called "hard-core" or "pro" gamers. Extreme enthusiasts play three to ten hours a day.

Enthusiasts play the same games as Extreme enthusiast as well as RPG, fighting, sports, and driving games. They have very good computers and either latest or more typically one generation old graphics, 19- to 24- inch displays. Enthusiasts play ten to twenty hours a week.

Mainstream gamers occasionally may play a FPS, play some RPG, and sports, most often play strategy, adventure, and various sim games (but typically not the most demanding racing or flight titles). They have midrange computers, midrange graphics, 17- to 19-inch displays. Mainstream gamers play one to ten hours a week

Casual gamers play mostly on-line, some strategy, music and puzzles, simple adventure like games, and simple sim games like Farmville. They have midrange or less computers, midrange to entry-level graphics, and 17- to 19-inch displays. Casual gamers play one to ten hours a week.

The boundaries between once class of gamer and another is not sharply defined and is often made more on the basis of their tastes, and the quality of their machines. Things get more confusing with the fact that an enthusiast gamer can often also be a casual gamer. While the extreme enthusiast may fit all categories depending the machines they use. They may play casual games on their business laptop, RPG games on their gaming notebook, and specifically use their desktop for simulation level gaming.

We then wait for the next question, which is usually, "Well how many total are there?" Thanks, could have save us a little time trying to categorize them for you.

But we trudge on, trying to be of service, and to better understand, define, and count the group who are PC gamers.

The Extreme enthusiasts are pretty easy to count, they are the ones who are buying the Enthusiast AIBs, at least we think 90 percent of the Enthusiast AIBs are bought for Extreme gaming, and that number comes to 7.9 million in 2010. But there are additional Extreme Enthusiasts who haven't bought a new AIB yet so we have to look at the installed base.

"Oy" the person asking the question usually says about now. "Does it have to be this pedantic and tedious, I just want to know the number?"

Yes we tell the inquirer, it does, because we want you to understand our methodology and give you an opportunity to either agree with it, or make us defend it. We want you get your money's worth.

"Money? I'm not going to pay for this; I just want to know how many PC gamers."

That's alright we tell the inquirer, we do this for the fun of it, it's our give back to the industry that has enriched us so well.

So the installed base is a function of the buy-cycle of the class of gamer. We think the Extreme enthusiast buys a new Enthusiast AIB every 18 months. If that assumption is correct then there are 13 million of them.

"And how many Enthusiasts?" The inquirer usually then asks.

It's the buy-cycle, for the regular enthusiast, we think their buy-cycle is 30 months, making that class approximately 53 million, about the same as the installed base of PlayStation 3's.

"That's all?" The inquirer usually asks now, indicating he or she has already forgotten about the other two classes, and demonstrating their really deep need and interest in this very rich data we're giving them for free.

No we say, there are also the mainstream and casual gamers, and they come to about 360 million.

And then, almost 90 percent of the time, we get asked, "How many use laptops?" At that point we say, you'll have to buy the report.