Pew Research has just published results of a study into American teens focusing on video games and civics, entitled (oddly enough) Teens, Video Games and Civics. Almost all teens game, but few are into MMOGs and virtual environments.
Overall, 97% of teens (99% of boys, and 94% of girls) were gamers, with 80% of teens generally playing five or more different genres of games. Racing, Puzzle and Sports games topped the list (with 74%, 72% and 68% respectively), while MMOGs like World of Warcraft, et al came in at second-last place with just 21% and virtual environments (Second Life, Habbo Hotel, and so) in last place with only 10%.
The five most popular games among teens were Guitar Hero, Halo 3, Madden NFL, Solitaire, and Dance Dance Revolution ranging in ratings from E for Everyone to M (Mature).
The low ratings of MMOGs and virtual environments is interesting in light of the fact that the majority of teen gamers are playing as a social activity, either with others in the room or online with others. Additionally there is a civic dimension to game-play. While there is scant correlation to demonstrate that games either undermine or promote civic attitudes or quantity of civic activities, 'the characteristics of game play and the contexts in which teens play games are strongly related to teens' interest and engagement in civic and political activities.'
Interestingly, this very low percentage of interest by teens in MMOGs and virtual environments is in stark contrast to the amount of development money being poured into the teen markets. At present, targeting teens for virtual environments and MMOGs might represent a reasonable absolute figure, in percentage terms it is about equivalent to making games for left-handed kids only.
In several years when many of these projects begin to reach fruition, these teens are going to be young adults and will likely start to become increasingly interested in MMOGs and virtual environments, though by that stage they will have outgrown the market being targeted by the majority of current MMOG/VE investment, ironically just as those very products are beginning to hit the market.