Attendees of the 2012 E3 video game convention in Los Angeles. (Christina House )
The total number of people playing video games in the U.S. declined 5% this year despite a dramatic surge in the popularity of games on smartphones and tablets.
In an annual survey conducted in March by the NPD Group, the U.S. had 211.5 million gamers, down from about 223 million in 2011. The hardest hit category was players of family or children's games, NPD analyst Anita Frazier said. That was followed by declines in the number of people who played "hard-core" games such as the "Call of Duty" franchise.
Meanwhile, players of mobile games such as "Angry Birds" grew 22% in 2012 from 2011, while players of digitally distributed games such as "Minecraft" jumped 16%.
Mobile gamers this year represent the largest gamer segment, outnumbering players of core games, which was the largest segment in 2011.
"Given the long life cycles of the current consoles and the increasing installed base of smartphones and tablets, it's not surprising to see a slight decline in the core gamer segment," Frazier said.
Still, core gamers -- defined as those who favor complex genres such as first-person shooters or role-playing games -- continue to outspend other types of players, Frazier said. Core gamers spent $65 a year on disc-based games on average, compared with $48 for a typical gamer. They're also more comfortable buying digitally distributed content, including virtual goods and added game content. About 27% of game purchases made by a core player were for digital content this year, compared with 14% for the average gamer.
"The revenue contribution of the core gamer segment ... continues to outpace all other segments, and remains vital to the future of the industry," she said.
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