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[This post originally appeared on Adrian Crook’s site.]

For those of you who read regularly, you might recall an article I wrote about Asia’s virtual goods lead. In it, I talked about Brad and Kyle, my cousins aged 7 and 13 years old from the Southern Ontario city of London.

During a visit, I chatted them up about their gaming habits and watched them play for a while. It was clear that free to play PC games had almost entirely usurped retail, pay-to-play products in their personal gaming library. Their favourite games were titles like Puzzle Pirates, Habbo Hotel and Runescape.

Well check out the latest NPD study, “Kids and Gaming,” as reported over at Worlds in Motion. The most relevant stats for me were:

  • 91% of online gaming among kids ages 2 to 17 is free
  • 9% pay to play – these are primarily kids from higher income households
  • The likelihood of a child paying increases with their age and time spent gaming
  • Half of all kid gamers are “light users,” clocking five hours a week or less
  • The other half were medium, heavy or “super” users, at 6-16 or more hours/week
  • The average time spent playing online was statistically higher among females

Look at that first stat.

That is so incredible that it has to be wrong or misinterpreted by me. If that’s true, where is the retail, pay-to-play gaming industry headed as the next generation of kids comes of age? The study does say that eventually kids (males, mostly) graduate to consoles in their late teens, but as new free to play games start catering to a “new adult” demographic, fewer and fewer teenagers will make the jump from free to $59.95.

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