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Who Really Gets the Most Play? Nielsen's Revised Chart Upends the Video Game Market [Updated]

Nielsen's most recent study of video gamer habits was widely reported and made for great headlines in the gaming press this week. Too bad some key information in the report was wrong. After a follow-up with Gavin McMillan of Nielsen, I learned that the most important graph from the study was mislabeled.

Here is the original graph in the study:

Nielsen chart

And here is the correction that McMillan sent me:

Nielsen chart 2

McMillan confirmed via email that "the report labels are incorrect" in the original study. In January 2009 the correct usage minute percents were as follows: PlayStation 2: 23.7%, Wii: 20.7%, Xbox 360: 18.2%, PlayStation 3: 9.0%, Xbox: 7.9%, and GameCube: 3.3%.

As you can see from this revised data, Microsoft Xbox 360 did NOT defeat Nintendo Wii in the percentage of gaming time Americans spent on the respective systems in January 2009, as was reported by multiple outlets earlier this week. And Sony's PlayStation 3 didn't do nearly as badly as the original graph suggested.

Is any other of the wide-reported data in the study inaccurate? Stay tuned for a response from Nielsen.

Update: Gavin McMillan has confirmed that the above graph was the only error in the report and that it has been fixed in the version of the study available on the Nielsen site.

McMillan also provided me with additional console usage data for January and February of 2009. When you only consider the current generation of systems, the share of American's gaming time in January, Wii is the clear leader:

Wii - 43.2%
Xbox - 360 38%
PlayStation 3 - 18.8%

But before you declare Wii the winner, check out the rankings for February, which change dramatically:

Xbox 360 - 41%
Wii - 39.6%
PlayStation 3 - 19.4%

In February, after the holiday gift hype died down, Wii usage declined while Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 play time increased. This gave Xbox 360 the top spot. Now let's compare these to market share numbers:

gaming graph
(Usage Time via Nielsen, Market Share via VGChartz)

Nintendo may have the biggest market share with the family-friendly Wii, but Microsoft has more dedicated users spending longer hours playing the Xbox 360. You can attribute the difference in time to the Xbox 360's greater number of "hardcore" games and the millions of hours gamers spend playing online with the Xbox Live service. Whether that lead holds in March and through the summer remains to be seen.

And how does Sony fare? The company is in third place no matter how you cut the data, and completely out of the running when it comes to gamers' time. The culprits there are probably the PS3's fewer titles and lower market share. Luckily, the success of the PS2 (most time spent on the overall Nielsen console chart, and over 50 million units sold in the U.S. since launch) helps mitigate Sony's position in the video game race for current generation dominance.

Related: The Fast Company 50 - #21 Nintendo