Easily one of the biggest markets in gaming is the under 18 market. The kids turn to gaming for fun and relaxation in fairly large numbers, and having access to parents' disposable income certainly doesn't hurt either. But a recent NPD
study suggests that the kids' market may be making a migration away from consoles toward a new, but largely familiar source.
NPD's report, dubbed the “Kids and Gaming 2013” report, showed that kids are still putting in a lot of time on consoles, but increasingly are turning to mobile devices—tablets and smartphones, mainly—to get the gaming fix craved. Fully 53 percent of mobile device owners, according to the study, were spending more time gaming on said devices now than those owners were in 2011. The biggest increase, meanwhile, is coming from kids aged 12 to 17, going from an average of five hours a week in 2011 to seven hours a week. That's a big step up, though it's worth noting that consoles and PCs
are still top of the heap. It's just that mobile devices are getting a bigger stack of attention than in previous years.
Naturally, this has a lot of people wondering if this is a mere blip in the statistics stacks or if this is the start of a greater trend that will drive more younger folks to tablets and smartphones. It's the kind of thing that time can only really tell, of course; we'll likely be asking this question again should the number reach nine percent in 2015, and probably again should the numbers hit 11 percent in 2017, though if that happens there will likely be a lot fewer people asking the question. Like Phil Hartman's Major Thorn once said in “Sgt. Bilko
”: “Nine years without a single successful test? That's not a slump, Colonel, that's a tradition.”
That's the critical issue here. Is this the start of something much bigger? Or is this just a temporary issue? If it's a longer-term issue, it's likely that there's going to be a lot more mobile game development as developers try to get a handle on the newest generation of gaming and where it's moving to. So in all likelihood, there's going to be a lot more careful watching going on as we may be looking at a sea change in the making. The kind of sea change that may well have big implications for the wider market, and the kind of sea change that may well shift development for some time to come.