NPD distributed a news release yesterday that professes to recharacterize the "heavy" gamer: "Contrary to popular belief that most video game players, and particularly "serious" video game players, are 18- to 34-year-old males, 45 percent of the NPD Heavy Gamer segment and nearly one-in-three Avid Console Gamers, the largest overall segment, are between the ages of six and 17, according to The NPD Group's recently released Video Gamer Segmentation Report."
The Video Gamer Segmentation Report is almost certainly an excellent tool for publishers and marketers, and its six-tiered classification of gamers is a great step towards shedding the false hardcore / casual distinction which has lived on well past its usefulness.
That said, nobody should really be surprised that 6-17 year olds dominate the heavy gamer segment. Video gaming has increased its market penetration with each generation since the inception of the Atari. The real surprise would be if 6-17 year olds were less enthusiastic gamers than their older brethren -- that would spell a real downturn in the industry. Fortunately, that's not the case here.
Another bullet point: "According to the report, Heavy Gamers' demographic/gender parameters also expand beyond 18- to 34-year-old males: 21 percent of this segment is female." In light of the youthful makeup of the heavy gamer segment, this is also unsurprising. Penetration in the segment has been increasing gender-neutral, and the array of games of interest to young girls -- think NeoPets -- is stronger than it ever has been.
What all of the above does demonstrate, I think, is that Nintendo has poised itself for smashing success in aiming the Wii beyond the 18-34 year old male. Or, as my colleague Tom Kurz summarized, "Wii are the world. Wii are the children."