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Study: 56 million have played social-network game

NPD Group estimates more than 56 million in the U.S. have played a game on a social-networking site over the past three months.

Are social networks the new playing field for gamers? A new study from NPD Group is pointing that way.

Released Monday, NPD's July "Social Network Gaming" report found that 20 percent of those ages 6 and older said they've played a game on a social networking site during the past three months. That number adds up to around 56.8 million people, which NPD says is a significant figure for a relatively new playing field.

Among those surveyed for the report, 35 percent were new to the world of gaming, never having played a game before diving into one on a social network. Women and older adults tended to be novice gamers, but the percentage of social-network gamers were divided fairly equally among the sexes, said NPD, with 47 percent male and 53 percent female.

NPD Group

Though social-network games, such as those at Facebook, are typically free, 10 percent of the people surveyed said they've spent money playing games and 11 percent said they'd open up their wallets in the future. Offline gaming may be taking a hit too, as 20 percent of the respondents said they've spent less time on other games since playing social-network games.

But social-network games may have a way to go before winning the hearts and minds of more dedicated gamers.

"While social network gaming has caught on with a mass market audience, it's not without its challenges," NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in a statement. "Players are frustrated by slow loading and performance issues and report getting bored by the games easily. Clearly, these types of games will have to continue to evolve if they hope to hold their audiences and incentivize them to spend money playing."

NPD's study is a combination of its Games Acquisition Monitor, which identified social-network gamers from April 5 to 20, and an online survey from its Consumer Panel, which ran from June 1 to 9.