New data published by media research company Interpret show the casual game demographic continuing to grow, and that most players don’t want to pay for their fun.

Numbers gleaned by the firm’s Gameasure service indicated over 145 million people aged 12-65 played casual games during 2007, with half of them playing for one or more hours per week, according to a Next-Gen report, while average playing time increased 28 percent from the third to fourth quarters of 2007, up to 5.1 hours per week. The research also found that fully 85 percent of casual gamers would rather play ad-supported games at no charge than pay for downloaded games.

“The growth of the casual gaming audience, the engagement with the medium itself, and the heightened interest from advertisers has contributed to ad revenue projections approaching $400-700 million by 2010,” said Interpret CEO Michael Dowling. “That spending is expected to be spread across hundreds of casual gaming sites, although the three consistent champions of casual games through 2007 were Yahoo! Games, MSN Games, and”

But he added that other major players in the casual game market, including, Real Arcade and AOL Games, made significant inroads in the final quarter of the year. “As more sites launch and gain in popularity we can expect to see an even more diversified ranking. At the same time we also expect considerable consolidation among casual gaming sites, as the market continues to evolve and larger conglomerates look for more assets,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, the study found that casual gamers are far more likely to be female, and “slightly older,” than traditional videogame players. 33 percent of casual gamers played online with other people, representing a social aspect Dowling indicated could be very attractive to advertisers, as it opens up the possibility for discussion of brands and products they’re exposed to during gameplay. “In a media world where audience are becoming harder to reach, and consumers are gaining more control over the ads they come in contact with, casual games deliver a sought out, ad-supported product to an engaged and active consumer,” he said.

The full report on Interpret’s findings on the casual gaming market in 2007 is available at Next-Gen.

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