In yet another sign that the current generation of video game consoles is on life-support, NPD Group is reporting that the number of Americans playing video games shrank by 12 million in the past year. To put that in perspective, that's five percent of the American gaming market, or as if as many people as the entire population of Beijing or London just stopped playing video games. Given that the present slate of consoles (3DS and Vita notwithstanding) has been hanging around for the better part of a decade, a decline in interest should be expectable; however, these data include the recently-exploding smartphone and tablet gaming markets.
In fact, the only growth was seen in emerging markets. Mobile gamers and "digital gamers" (those who forego buying games on physical media) increased in number year-over-year, by nine percent and four percent respectively. Primarily-mobile gamers now account for twenty-two percent of the market, in fact; given the popularity of smartphone games and the consistently impressive numbers the 3DS is pushing, the increased size and clout of the mobile market follows logically.
The number of core gamers playing, meanwhile, dropped by two percent, last year accounting for twenty-one percent of gaming Americans. This makes sense, again, given how long-in-the-tooth the home consoles are. That said, core American gamers still spend more on gaming per capita than others do - though those numbers only account for purchases of physical media. The number of avid PC gamers also declined by two percent. In that category, NPD included both core gamers and casual gamers.
It is interesting to ponder, six years after the Wii and smartphone apps revolutionized the accessibility of the gaming market, that nearly eighty percent of gamers in the US are now not "core" console gamers.