In a study released on Monday entitled, "The State of the Console," Nielsen Media Research found that 41.1 percent of households with televisions in the U.S. now have gaming consoles.
That number represents an 18.5 percent increase since 2004, according the research firm, who used a sample of 12,000 TV-viewing households for its report.
Additionally, Nielsen found that in the fourth quarter of 2006 there were 45.7 million homes with video game consoles, compared to 43 million in 2005, and 38.6 million the previous year.
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The numbers were also significant because the increase in both the number and the percentage of U.S. households with televisions actually grew by only 1.6 percent during same period.
While some previous studies involving video game usage have been labeled as inaccurate or skewed due to the inclusion of PC gaming — which includes casual gaming like "Solitaire" and "Minesweeper" — the newly released Nielsen study focused solely on consoles.
Furthermore, instead of relying on self-reporting, the research firm said it used its National People Meter (NPM), the same system it employs to generate ratings data for the television industry.
Other findings in the study included:
— The number of connected console households (those subscribing to a service that links their consoles to the Internet) has grown to more than 4.4 million.
— Two-thirds of all men in television households between the ages of 18-34 have access to a video game console in their homes.
— During the fourth quarter of 2006, gamers in the top quintile (the top 20 percent of users based on average use over the quarter) accounted for 74.4 percent of total console usage.
— Between September 18, 2006 and December 31, 2006, 93.8 million persons used a video game console at least once for a minute or more. Moreover, in any given minute of the day, about 1.6 million people in the U.S. are using a video game console.
Monday's report was the first of what is to be a comprehensive look at video game usage in the United States.
In October of 2006, Nielsen announced it would be collecting data about which games are played most frequently, along with corresponding information about the demographics of the players.
The launch of the firm's GamePlay Metrics will also deliver data by genre and platform, according to the company, and provide ad agencies, hardware manufacturers, and game developers with quantitative information about the industry and its products.
"The video game industry has become a major player in the battle for the living room," Jeff Herrmann, vice president of Nielsen wireless and interactive services, said in a statement Monday. "In households across the country, consoles are successfully competing for consumers' time and attention; not simply as gaming platforms, but as multimedia hubs that also can deliver high quality digital movies and IPTV."
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