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Where are people playing?

February 12, 2012

by David Baszucki


Some surprising conclusions jump out when comparing time spent playing online, mobile, and facebook games. People spend one hour playing ROBLOX for every 20 hours kids around the world play with physical LEGO bricks. Twice as much time is spent on Xbox Live as is spent playing Zynga games. 

Some of the data was hard to find, and some figures are estimates. Destinations are compared by Total Players, Total Time, and Time per Player. See the end of this post for the data sources, along with which values had to be estimated.

Total Monthly Time

When sorting the destinations by Monthly Minutes (total time spent by all users every month), Facebook is king. Look below Facebook and you can see that Xbox Live users spend twice as much time playing as all Zynga users. Both World of Warcraft and Zynga users are spending roughly a billion hours per month online.

In the mobile space, Rovio claims people are playing Angry Birds 12 billion total minutes per month. ROBLOX users spend more time (20 million hours+) playing per month than people spend on popular destinations like Nickelodeon, LinkedIn, or Yahoo Games. Gizmodo published interesting stats on LEGO a few years ago, and it bears comparing the leading physical building toy with online play destinations. Almost twice as many people around the world use Facebook every month (see sections below) as Gizmodo claims have ever played with LEGO bricks (400 million).  The monthly play time for physical LEGO claimed by Gizmodo (400 million hours) is 20x the monthly play time on ROBLOX (20 million hours).

Engagement (Time spent per user)

Hard core games pop to the surface when sorting by time spent per user. Survey data claims World of Warcraft players spend 80 hours per month on the game, but this may have been at WOW’s peak. Xbox Live claims 35 million monthly players all spending 120 billion total minutes per month. That works out to 57 hours per month for every Xbox Live user. Are there really 35 million people around the world spending 2 hours per day on Xbox Live?  Microsoft claims there are.

There are 2 million monthly players on ROBLOX (as opposed to monthly uniques, which can include people who browse the site but don’t play). ROBLOX internal numbers show more monthly uniques than those reported by Comscore. When time per user on ROBLOX is computed using 2 million players and 1.3 billion monthly minutes, the result is 650 minutes per player per month. This is close to the Facebook time per user, and well above the other destinations in the survey.

Destinations where users are immersed in a social/gaming environment show the highest user engagement. Great brands from leading toy companies (Barbie, Hot Wheels, Transformers and Beyblade) do not ensure high online engagement. Wizard101 and Minecraft both have high monthly engagement, but I was unable to get data on their total usage time.

Monthly Unique Visitors

The traditional way to measure online properties is Monthly Unique Visitors. Sites that receive many online visitors with shallow engagement can be good at generating advertising revenue, because the first impression from a user is the most valuable. The number of monthly unique visitors provides a rough relative measure of how many people know about the destination. Several sites in the survey get many visitors who spend short amounts of time, thus rating highly in monthly uniques, even though not as high in total time.

Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network surpass ROBLOX in monthly unique visitors even though the total time spent by users on ROBLOX is greater (according to the data sources listed below).

Data Sources

The survey data is from multiple sources, and is correlated in some cases.  The Comscore data can be rough – for both Facebook and ROBLOX the Comscore numbers deviate significantly from reported values.