From Geek to Chic: Record Sales Signal Video Games' Arrival

ByABC News
January 24, 2007, 1:03 PM

Jan. 25, 2007 — -- It's hardly news anymore that the average video game player is over 30, that millions of women across the globe are gaming or that it's big business akin to the movie industry.

It's possible that gaming has become so commonplace that few have bothered to realize that it might just be cool.

That's probably why it wasn't widely reported in the mainstream press that the video and PC gaming industry earned record-setting profits last year -- to the tune of about $13.5 billion, an 18 percent increase over 2005, according to the NPD Group.

"It's a pretty significant increase," said Anita Frazier, industry analyst for NPD. "I think we're going to continue to see robust growth in the industry continuing in 2007."

Of course, new game consoles from Sony and Nintendo helped, as did sales of Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the many games released for the system over the year. Hand-held machines and games for the Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable were instrumental, and a somewhat surprising showing from Sony's last generation PlayStation 2 made it a banner year.

But perhaps the biggest factor in the industry's success during 2006 wasn't the glossy hardware or the cutting-edge games but instead a subtle shift in the once-geeky public perception of the gamer persona. Consumers just don't feel so strange about buying or playing video games anymore.

"Whether it's on a console, PC or cell phone, everybody's playing," said Sam Kennedy, editor-in-chief of gaming community and news hub

People who grew up with video games are getting older -- duh. As that happens, they're the ones with the incomes. They're the heads of households and they choose not to put down their controllers.

Even people who would never consider themselves "gamers," Kennedy said, are still playing online poker, solitaire on their computer or iPod, or maybe a game of Snake on their cell phone.

"There are things we used to talk about that seemed like pie-in-the-sky talk, like the mainstreaming of games, but now I think it's happened," said Jeff Green, editor in chief of Games for Windows: The Official Magazine. "In general, what used to be called 'geeky' is just mainstream nowadays."