Meet the average Facebook gamer: A 43-year-old woman who loves FarmVille

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Women aged 43 make up the majority of Facebook gamersWhen you say the word game, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a trigger-happy dude, using high-powered weapons to mow down Nazis, terrorists, aliens or any other 'It' bad guy of the moment. When it comes to gaming on Facebook, however, the average gamer might not be what you think.

According to a new survey from game publisher PopCap, the person most likely spending time tending virtual farms (and maybe even mowing down rival mafioso in Mafia Wars), is a 43-year-old woman, and she plays several times a day, even though she holds a full-time job (and most likely has children). She's also most likely to be playing FarmVille, Bejeweled Blitz, Texas Hold'em Poker, Cafe World and Mafia Wars, and has likely played an average of six games -- many of which were recommended by friends.

Facebook is her preferred gaming destination of choice. In fact, 83% of those surveyed say they choose to play on Facebook over other social networks. That's not exactly a surprise, though, given the dominance of Facebook and the fact that most social games land on Facebook first.
As for spending dollars on playing these games, over 50% say they've earned and spent virtual currency in these games, but a mere 28% have bought virtual currency using real-world money. A quarter of the respondents also said they have been mislead by an ad or other 'special offer' in a social game, which further validates the complaints about these ads that erupted last year.

Men, however, shouldn't be ignored when it comes to social games. They make up 45% total players, and -- with video game spin-offs such as Civilization Network and Madden in the works, we expect this number will grow significantly by the end of the year.

In the meantime, if you want to know where the ladies are spending their free time -- be sure to check Facebook first.

Below are more fun factoids from the comprehensive study:

male vs female in facebook gamesGender Differences

As with most forms of video games, men and women differ in their consumption of, and attitudes towards, social games:

Among the most avid social gamers, women make up the majority; 38% of female social gamers say they play social games several times a day, vs. 29% of males.

Women are more apt to play social games with real-world friends than men are (68% vs. 56%).

Men are more inclined than women to play with strangers (41% vs. 33%); nearly twice as many women as men say they play social games with relatives (46% vs. 29%).

Frequent Play

The vast majority (95%) of social gamers play multiple times per week; nearly two-thirds (64%) play at least once a day.

U.S. players tend to play more frequently, with 68% saying they play daily compared to 55% of U.K.-based social gamers.

61% of social gamers say their average social gaming session lasts more than half an hour; one in ten say their average session lasts 3 hours or more!

More than half (56%) of social gamers have been playing social games for more than a year.

About one quarter (26%) are new to social gaming, having started playing in the last six months.

About a third (35%) of social gamers say their consumption of social games has increased over the past three months, compared to 10% who said it has decreased.

Playing Preferences

Facebook is far and away the most popular destination for social gamers; 83% of social gamers cite Facebook as a place where they play social games, compared to 24% who play on MySpace, 7% on Bebo and 5% who play on Friendster.

Social gamers spend 39% of all their time on social networking sites/services playing games. The second and third most popular social networking activities among social gamers are chatting with/messaging friends (17%) and playing non-social (solo) games (15%).

When asked to choose as many reasons as they wanted for playing social games from a lengthy list, social gamers cited "fun and excitement" as the most popular motivation (53%). Stress relief (45%) and "competitive spirit" (43%) were next most popular respectively, followed by "mental workout" (32%) and "connect with others" (24%).

Only 17% of UK-based social gamers chose "connect with others" as a reason for playing, compared to 28% of their U.S. counterparts.

Nearly half (49%) of the times when they log into social networks, social gamers do so specifically to play social games.

bejeweled blitz is the second most popular game played according to this surveyViral Growth/Consumption

Social gamers tend to play their favorite games with great frequency; the most popular games for weekly or more frequent play are Farmville (69% of all social gamers who play Farmville say they play once a week or more), Bejeweled® Blitz (65%), Texas Hold'em Poker (63%), Cafe World (61%) and Mafia Wars (59%).

Word-of-mouth is the most common way that social gamers hear about new social games; 57% of social gamers rely on a recommendation or in-game alert from a friend while 38% said they learn about new games from ads on social networking sites and 27% cited standard Web searches as a source of information on new social games.

Social gamers have played an average of 6.1 different social games; 39% have played between three and five social games and 13% say they've played more than 10.

Virtual Currencies

Slightly more than half (53%) of social gamers say they've earned and/or spent virtual currency in a social game, but only 28% have purchased virtual currency with real-world money and only 32% have purchased a virtual gift.

Nearly a third (32%) of social gamers say they're likely to purchase virtual items with real-world currency.

Fully a quarter (25%) of social gamers say they've been misled by an ad or other "special offer" tied to a social game they've played.

Social Gaming Relationships

62% of qualified survey respondents say they play social games with real-world friends, while 56% play with friends they've made online and 37% say they play with strangers.

U.S.-based social gamers are far more likely to play with strangers than their UK counterparts (41% vs. 29%).

Nearly half (43%) of social gamers say they also play social games with their parents, children, and/or other relatives.

62% of social gamers agree that social games allowed them to reconnect with "old friends, colleagues, classmates etc."; a similar percentage (63%) say that social games have been a source of new friendships and 70% say that social games make them feel more connected to other members of their social networks.

When asked to choose aspects of social gaming that appeal to them - other than "social interaction" - social gamers cite "friendly competition" (59%), "interactive gameplay" (49%) and "opportunity to win prizes" (35%) as the primary reasons; only 24% of UK-based social gamers chose the latter as a reason for playing, compared to 40% of their American counterparts.
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