The gaming console has become a total entertainment device—and in fact, gaming accounts for only half of the time they spend on their consoles.
That's the word from Nielsen, which noted that just over four years ago, the US video game console audience started to spend more of its console time on non-gaming activities. Today, that trend has strengthened, as owners now actively use their consoles for a wide range of activities including viewing TV, streaming video, watching Blu-ray discs and exploring the Internet.
As the popularity of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime Instant Video has increased, so has video viewing on gaming consoles. For example, 51% of Xbox One users watch video-on-demand and online subscription video on their systems, up from only 26% of Xbox 360 users in 2010, with Sony platforms showing a similar trend.
Eighth-generation console sales have continued to grow over the past year, as manufacturers market both their gaming and non-gaming capabilities. Even so, gaming remains the primary activity: the Nielsen 360° Gaming Report found that more than 80% of eighth-gen users play games on their systems. The report also identified differences between online and offline gameplay across three consoles: Microsoft Xbox One leads online gameplay, while Nintendo Wii U and PlayStation 4 are more likely to be used for gaming offline.
Overall, gamers' propensity to play online has increased across console generations, with Nintendo seeing the greatest growth in online playership, rising from 27% of Wii users in 2010 to 50% of Wii U users in 2014. Offline gameplay is less common on Xbox One than on Xbox 360 four years ago, though offline gaming rates may shift as the consumer base and game library for Xbox One evolve.
While usage patterns differ by system, the total share of weekly activity across consoles reflects an increase in non-gaming usage. Currently, consumers claim to spend 50% of their console time playing games, down from 60% in previous years. The ways they spend their non-gaming time have also evolved, as users are now more likely to engage in activities that were more niche four years ago (like watching short video clips, listening to music and using the Internet).
"Given the improvements to console user interfaces and a rapidly diversifying menu of apps for each system, manufacturers are facilitating even more opportunities for gamers and non-gamers to enjoy their entertainment through gaming systems," Nielsen said.