Crispy Gamer

The Great American Gaming Landscape

Since November 2006, NPD's monthly console sales reports have provided the best publicly available data on the North American console market. But while these reports give a good rough sketch of the size and shape of the market, they leave unanswered some rather important questions. How many Americans, for instance, are playing games even though they don't own a current-generation console? How many American households own more than one current-gen system? Are those Nintendo Wii buyers using the system by itself, or as an addition to an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3? Which console combinations are the most common?

Luckily, an NPD press release from last week helps provide answers to those questions and more. Though the release was primarily focused on the power of "word-of-mouth" advertising and "hands-on play" in gaming purchasing decisions, it also included an interesting table on cross-system ownership among American households. With these new data points, and a few more provided by NPD and the U.S. Census, we can outline the American gaming landscape with much more precision than before.


Console ownership among gamers in the United States, as of January 2009. Each box and intersection is sized proportionally to its share of the U.S. population. Hover over the chart to see detailed percentages for each section, as a proportion of the U.S. population. Unless otherwise noted, all percentages refer to areas bounded by black lines.

Console ownership among gamers in the United States


A more detailed breakdown of the numbers and notes on how they were derived are included on the following page, but here are some of the interesting data points that jumped out at me:

  • According to NPD's data, just over half of the U.S. population (55.61 percent) can be considered a "gamer." This includes seven gaming sub-groups: Extreme Gamers, Avid PC Gamers, Console Gamers, Online PC Gamers, Offline PC Gamers, Young Heavy Gamers and Secondary Gamers. According to NPD, gamers outnumber non-gamers in the country by roughly 34 million.
  • Despite the growing popularity of videogames, nearly three in four Americans (73.47 percent) live in a household without a current-generation home console. Even among those described as "gamers," more than half (52.3 percent) manage to get by without a current-gen console, relying instead on portable systems, PC/Web games, mobile phones or older consoles like the PlayStation 2.
  • Cross-console ownership of current-generation systems is still an extremely small niche. Only roughly 7 percent of the population lives in a house with at least two current-gen consoles, compared to nearly 20 percent of the population that lives in a house with exactly one current-gen console. Only 1.1 percent of households contain all three current-gen systems. Households that contain at least one current-gen console have about a one-in-four chance (25.79 percent) of having at least one other.
  • The Wii is by far the dominant current-gen system in America. Nearly one in five Americans (17.8 percent) live in a household with a Wii, outnumbering households that have either an Xbox 360 or a PS3 combined (14.7 percent). Further, more than one in nine Americans (11.84 percent) live in a household with a Wii and no other current-gen systems. Forty-five percent of households with at least one current-gen console include a Wii. A full 60 percent of households with only one current-gen console chose the Wii as that system.
  • Wii owners are much less likely than other system owners to own a second console -- nearly two-thirds (66.56 percent) of households with a Wii don't have another console. In contrast, households with a PS3 are more likely than not to also have another system -- roughly three in five PS3 owners (59.4 percent) also own an Xbox 360, a Wii or both.
  • If you own a PS3 and Xbox 360, chances are you also own a Wii -- 55 percent of households with both Sony's and Microsoft's systems also splurged for Nintendo's. Owning a Wii and an Xbox 360 doesn't predict PS3 ownership, though -- only about one in four "Wii-60" combination owners (23.91 percent) also bought a PlayStation 3.

    Data tables

    While there are a million different ways to arrange it, here are some basic breakdowns of NPD's American console ownership data. Note that people were asked about what systems were in their households, not necessarily whether or not they played those systems. Adding and recombining these numbers can provide data on a lot more subgroups -- feel free to play around with the data yourself if so inclined, and share your findings in the comments.

    % of U.S. pop. % of gamers Number
    U.S. population 100.00% N/A 305,529,237
    Gamers 55.61% 100.00% 169,900,000
    Non-gamers 44.39% N/A 135,629,237
    Gamers w/out current-gen console 29.08% 52.30% 88,857,700
    U.S. population w/out current-gen console 73.47% N/A 224,486,937
    At least one console 26.53% 47.70% 81,042,300
    Wii 17.79% 32.00% 54,368,000
    Xbox 360 11.12% 20.00% 33,980,000
    PS3 5.56% 10.00% 16,990,000
    At least two consoles 6.84% 12.30% 20,897,700
    Wii & Xbox 360 4.65% 8.36% 14,203,640
    Wii & PS3 2.41% 4.34% 7,373,660
    PS3 & Xbox 360 2.00% 3.60% 6,116,400
    All three 1.11% 2.00% 3,398,000
    Exactly one console 19.69% 35.40% 60,144,600
    Wii only 11.84% 21.30% 36,188,700
    Xbox 360 only 5.58% 10.04% 17,057,960
    PS3 only 2.26% 4.06% 6,897,940
    Exactly two consoles 5.73% 10.30% 17,499,700
    Wii & Xbox 360 (no PS3) 3.54% 6.36% 10,805,640
    Wii & PS3 (no Xbox 360) 1.30% 2.34% 3,975,660
    PS3 & Xbox 360 (No Wii) 0.89% 1.60% 2,718,400

    Among 360 owners

    Percent Number
    Total 100.00% 33,980,000
    360 only 50.20% 17,057,960
    360 & Wii only 31.80% 10,805,640
    360 & PS3 only 8.00% 2,718,400
    All three 10.00% 3,398,000

    Among PS3 owners

    Percent Number
    Total 100.00% 16,990,000
    PS3 only 40.60% 6,897,940
    PS3 & Wii only 23.40% 3,975,660
    PS3 & 360 only 16.00% 2,718,400
    All three 20.00% 3,398,000

    Among Wii owners

    Percent Number
    Total 100.00% 54,368,000
    Wii only 66.56% 36,188,700
    Wii & 360 only 19.88% 10,805,640
    Wii & PS3 only 7.31% 3,975,660
    All three 6.25% 3,398,000

    Data sources/notes

    Most of the raw data for this analysis comes from this Sept. 14 NPD press release, which surveyed nearly 21,000 Americans aged two and older in January 2009. The size of the "gamer" population was reported directly by NPD's David Riley from the same data set. The size of the U.S. population in January 2009 was obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, and all the data in the above "Number" columns were derived from that.

    The proportion of gamers that own all three systems was obtained from a 2008 NPD press release that took data from a January 2008 consumer survey. NPD was not able to provide an updated proportion for the 2009 survey as of press time, so the 2008 number was used as an estimate.

    Thanks to Matt Matthews for his help with the data analysis.

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  • Comments

    Great analysis. I agree of this.Indeed, these are the most exciting and entertaining game experiences ever. - Casa Sandoval

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