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New World Newsfeed: Nielsen Says Second Life Played More Than Half-Life 2 and World of Warcraft (Updated)

Nielsen March report

Update, 5/20: This chart and summary is corrected here.

I just stumbled onto this March Nielsen Games report with some extraordinary data: based on audience surveys regarding a hundred non-casual, pre-installed PC games, Second Life is the most played of all, registering average playtimes of 760 minutes a week per user, nearly a hundred more than World of Warcraft, and eighth [see link above] second in total player popularity only to WoW. (Note this popularity based on what people are measured to play say they, and for how long, not on sales figures.)  This data isn't an anamoly, by the way: Last January, Nielsen ranked Second Life third in popularity, above Spore and Sims 2, Notably absent from the March top ten are recent bestselling "gamer games" like Team Fortress II, Warhammer Online, and Left 4 Dead. Against those hardcore hits, against even Gordon Freeman himself, Second Life pwns. Image credit: Nielsen.com.

Update, 11:50am: Writing in Comments, Nielsen's Brad Raczka says this data is not from consumer surveys where they estimate gameplay times, but actual play: "Just wanted to let you know that this data is from actual metered gameplay measurement... It is not survey data. We electronically meter the web and application activity from 180,000+ homes in the U.S." In an email exchange, he adds: "Keep in mind the Nielsen Online panel is not a panel of gamers, rather a panel of U.S. homes all over from which we track web and gaming activity."

Update 2, 1:02PM: Massively's Tateru Nino compiles more comparison data, noting for instance that SL's weekly usage numbers seem to eclipse Facebook (47 minutes/week) and YouTube (84 minutes/week).

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Brad Raczka

Just wanted to let you know that this data is from actual metered gameplay measurement, not survey data from the Nielsen Online panel of U.S. homes.

Brad Raczka

Correction: (bad English)
The metered data comes from the Nielsen Online panel of homes. It is not survey data. We electronically meter the web and application activity from 180,000+ homes in the U.S.

Arcadia Codesmith

There's no easy button, no power-leveling in SL. Whatever your personal goals are, creative, monetary, social, or even carnal, the pay-off is almost always directly proportional to the amount of time you put into it.

That is more than a little daunting for MMO players who are accustomed to being hand-held through quests for guaranteed rewards, or single-player gamers who can overcome difficulty by going into preferences and moving a slider.

If SL is to be compared on the same scale, it behooves us to support and initiate efforts to ease the transition and allow people to have a fulfilling in-world experience without a major time investment.

And I think that's a more important take-away than, "our residents REALLY have no lives! Ha HA! Take that, WoW!"

Ann Otoole

There are MMORPG games in Second Life. It is big business. You just don't see much positive press about it.

I like the results. It really underscores how when asked people will deny and decry involvement with Second Life yet behind closed doors are involved in a big way.

This also lends some credibility to LL's bot statistics in a tangential way.

cube inada

mainstream numbers brings mainstream interest, but mainstream is still confusing SL with a singular MMO game.. But Hype is hype....

Ursula will be very crowded soon, the mainland empty and mainstream companies will be pressuring LL with Lawsuits over IP issues weekly I predict.

cube inada

Corcosman Voom

I imagine Blizzard is looking at the TMP% number. It would be nice to be over 50% but it is still a very nice number.

Hamlet Au

No doubt, that's really impressive. I'm not clear if that's 46% of all 180K of *all* homes, or 46% of homes who are playing one or more of those 100 measured PC games.

Chuck Baggett

The legend for the top chart shown refers to "share" as being "the percentage of the gaming audience measured that played the title."

However, the chart doesn't show a value labeled "Share".

The "Avg. Min Per Week" that is shown in the chart is not defined above.

It appears to me that the "Avg. Min Per Week" is most likely the average minutes per week spend in the "game" by those who use the "game". A bit over ten hours a week sounds about right for a moderate intensity Second Life fan. If that's not what it means, then what does it mean?

The chart has a column "Rank", which is also undefined, although it is the same order that TMP is in.

Ren Reynolds

It's late so mb I'm reading it wrong - but is the TMP figure not the % of hours played from the total? As SL has the highest average and one that is way higher than some of the others - this means that a few people 'use' it a lot. So it does not mean that SL is second most popular it means that it's very popular i.e. used a lot by the minority of the total base that use it. I assume if we saw users with SL installed as a % of n (the total 'player' base), then SL would be no where near the top 10. Given what we know about usage patterns across the sector - is this actually surprising?

Nyoko Salome

:0 "based on audience surveys regarding a hundred non-casual, pre-installed PC games,"

ONE HUNDRED samples, and that's all?? :\ that seems to be a grossly negligent sampling to me for a proper survey. :\ i'd want 10k samples at least before i saw a reduction to a 'x-in-one-hundred' figure... that's just ad-industry standard. (and unless the standards have changed, i see no reason to change that standard regarding online sampling...)

Hamlet Au

Ren, the chart says "Share is the percentage of the gaming audience measured that played the title.", so I read the results two ways. Of the 180K computer owners sampled who are playing any one of those 100 games, 46% are playing WoW. In second are 3.2%, who are playing SL. So while there are way more WoW players, they play it less than SL, and SL is second most popular in audience share.

cala

prior months of that data included the Share column. SL was 1.4% share and WOW was 12.1 in Jan.

http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/media_entertainment/playstation-2-world-of-warcraft-most-played-in-january/

Laurel Papworth

Given that Second Life is also used at work (customer service, business functions etc) and at Uni (Education being a huge user of SL), I wonder if that would skew the statistics of "180k of HOME users" even further? Laurel @SilkCharm

Troy McConaghy

Isn't this is like comparing apples and automobiles. For example, from a (hypothetical) study of 180,000 Americans:

The average person was in an automobile for 8.13 hours per week.

The average person spent 0.17 hours per week eating apples.

If someone were to put *that* data in a table for comparison, people would think they forgot to take their meds.

To put it another way, it might be just as valid to compare Second Life, Internet Explorer, and iTunes usage hours per week. All three are all applications with a wide variety of uses and require an Internet connection to work meaningfully.

Hamlet Au

Cala, good catch, for some reason the March chart doesn't have that same share column, I'll check with them.

Troy McConaghy

One can derive some other interesting numbers from the table...

First, I'll assume "Avg. Min Per Week" is the average number of minutes spent playing the given game per week, by people who actually spent some time playing the game. That is, when calculating the average time playing WoW, they divided by the total number of users who actually played WoW (not 180,000 or whatever the total number of users was).

Given that, one can calculate the size of the userbase of one "game" relative to another. For example, the size of the WoW userbase relative to the size of the SL userbase is:

(46.71/653) / (3.206/760) = 17 approximately

That is, the active userbase of WoW is about 17 times larger than the active userbase of SL (among the users in the Nielsen study).

Since the *total* WoW userbase is about 11 million people, we can estimate the total SL userbase to be about:

11 million / 17 = 647,000 people aproximately

which is in the same ballpark as what Mark Kingdon said in his Metanomics interview yesterday.

I leave similar calculations for other games as an exercise for the reader.

Simeon Beresford

did someone mention camping?

Troy McConaghy

A lot of caming is done by bots that people rent from bot companies (e.g. sinewaverobots.com, PikkuBot.de).

The bots rented from bot companies are being controlled by stripped-down SL clients running on computers in big server farms ("in the cloud", where CPU time is cheaper).

I'm pretty sure Nielsen was monitoring usage on computers in peoples' homes, not on computers in server farms. Therefore this study wouldn't have been affected by the camping bots very much.

Hamlet Au

Troy, interesting math, but the Nielsen study was only analyzing US Internet activity. I can't find a recent breakdown, but when WoW was at 10 million subscribers, just 2.5 million were in the US:

http://eu.blizzard.com/en/press/080122.html

Half the WoW userbase is in Asia, primarily China.

Arcadia Codesmith

"SL is second most popular in audience share."

There's not enough data in the chart to support that conclusion. It seems to be ranked by TMP%, but the description of how TMP% is calculated is ambiguous. Is it average minutes played per week amongst households who play SL, or does it include in the average 0 minutes played for people who don't own or don't play SL? I suspect the former, but without greater access to the raw data and methodology, it can't be determined conclusively.

Other analysts rank SL rank below most of the major MMORPGs, in the same ballpark as perennial niche player Eve Online.

Let's keep it real.

Ren Reynolds

Hamlet > Ren, the chart says "Share is the percentage of the gaming audience measured that played the title."

Yes it does. But ‘share’ does not appear in the chart. The chart is ranked by TMP which is % of total minutes. TMP is not % of the number of players as you seem to be suggesting.

Hence the chart actually backs up the stereotype that few people use SL but those that do, do it obsessively; rather than defeating the idea that SL is ‘popular' in the standard sense of the term.

Hamlet Au

Ren, check out the January chart, which does show the % share -- SL is still listed in the top ten on that metric (#6), so it's still popular in terms of total user numbers, not just total user hours. I'm checking with Nielsen now about what happened to the share column in the latest chart featured in this post.

Troy McConaghy

If we assume that 25% of the 11 million WoW users are American, that's 2.75 million American users.

If we divide that by 17 we get an estimate of the SL userbase in the USA: 162,000

In his Metanomics interview on May 6, Mark Kingdon said "...50 percent of our user base, or more, actually is outside the United States." (from the transcript available at metanomics.net).

If we estimate the US userbase to be 45% of the total, then an estimate of the global SL userbase is:

162,000 / 0.45 = 360,000

which is lower than my earlier estimate but the same order of magnitude.

Russell Boyd

Very interesting stats, and good analysis, Troy. Your second estimates are pretty close as reported for the end of 2008:

http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/media_entertainment/the-state-of-the-video-gamer-suitable-for-all-ages/

According to that report, in 2008, SL peaked at around 600,000 at the start of the year, but was down around 200,000 at the end. Maybe the doom-mongers have a point after all.

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