170 million gamers in the US

Once upon a time, before Al Gore invented the Internet, the gamers of today were a rather lonesome lot. Solitary and misunderstood, they would sit in their parents’ basements — fingers tapping rapidly over cold plastic, faces illuminated by the steady glow of monitors and television screens, living under the hope that somewhere, someone shared their passion for the obscure 1981 Pac-Man clone, K.C. Munchkin. Decades later, this once disjointed culture has attained solidarity through the electronic diaspora of the Internet, and in doing so, has brought an exponentially expanding number of new members into the fold. Put simply — and this is the shocking part, so get ready — people like to play videogames.

Lots and lots of people, in fact. Market research company NPD Group has found in their latest study that the United States is now home to 170 million people identified as ‘gamers’. When compared to the most recent U.S. Census, that means that roughly 55% of the population is immersed in some form interactive entertainment. The study, known as the 2009 Gamer Segmentation Report, also reveals another shocking statistic: The increase in the amount of domestic gamers in the year 2008 alone was approximately 4.3 million. Of course, this is not to say that all of these new ‘gamers’ are soccer moms that traded in their yoga mats for a Wii Balance Board. The report breaks down the numbers into categories. Unsurprisingly, the largest group, known as “Secondary Gamers” (33.6 million) play less than 4 hours a week and typically don’t own any consoles. The fastest-growing category however is “Console Gamers” (32.9 million), a group of dedicated players that own 1 or 2 consoles and indulge in their hobby for around 12 hours per week. The smallest category is “Extreme Gamers,” a group who play over 40 hours per week, the equivalent of a full-time job, and would probably be banking some serious cheddar if their hobby were a lucrative endeavor.

If statistical nuggets are your sort of thing, you can find the full report on NPD’s website.