Glenn, Seattle's PopCap Games would like a word about your take on older Facebook users. The Belltown company, best known for casual computer hits like Bejeweled, put out a survey this week about the rising world of "social" games such as Mafia Wars and Farmville, which are embedded within Facebook and encourage sharing between friends.

The study's claim: Don't expect a crowd of teenaged, Mountain Dew-addicted boys. The average social game player in the US and UK, out of a gaming population of more than 100 million, is 43 years old and female.




Granted, the numbers skew toward Bejeweled Blitz, a PopCap game, and the sample includes 1,200 responses to an online survey rather than one taken over the phone. But the numbers are still the first of their kind that take into account the nascent Facebook game genre, and with hundreds of millions logging in, the stats are nothing to scoff at.

gigaom.com breaks some of the more notable numbers down in bullet-list form, including the number of college graduates in the survey (less than half), the number of weekly game players (95 percent), and the number of American players over 50—48 percent? Wow.

This is but one piece of Facebook value that Glenn Fleishman overlooked as he fleed the site: its many tiers of passive connectivity.  Older members may not be giving away personal info or updating statuses, but they are updating Farmville farms—and, for 62% of them, competing or sharing with in-person friends at the same time. Big distinction here: Facebook isn't a gaming site that happens to have friends, but a friend site that happens to have games. That's the best place for a super-simple, competitive game to draw a formerly untapped audience—and a gender-balanced one, to boot.

Not that this is my preferred gateway drug. The majority of "social" games are trashy, carrot-dangling time-sucks, encouraging once-every-10-minute clicks to rack up virtual currency. As such, the games target people who sit at computers all day. No shocker, then, that 41% in this survey work full-time, essentially exposing the genre as an anti-productivity office toxin.

Also, according to the survey, most folks will never spend cash on these games. When asked about paying for "virtual" currency, 68% said they were somewhat or very unlikely to bust out their credit cards. Games can embed ads of their own, but Facebook users expect their fun to come in one flavor: free. Profit streams will have to be creative.

PopCap can afford to give away its Facebook games, of course, because the company can write them off as demos for popular $5-$10 titles sold on PC, Xbox 360, and the iPhone App Store, where PopCap has consistently high rankings. Makes sense, then, that PopCap was the company to put out the survey.
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