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Research Reveals Casual Games Provide Mental Balance, Stress Relief

RealNetworks Inc., the leading developer, publisher and distributor of casual games, announced research findings that demonstrate U.S. adults who play computer games play casual games for a quick mental break. Sixty-four precent of respondents cited gameplay as a way to unwind and relax, while 53% play for stress relief.

Real is providing new details about the casual games social phenomenon that more than 70% of people buying casual games from the company are women, 40 and older. The findings are from a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, a worldwide market research and consulting firm and focus groups hosted by bestselling author and women's lifestyle expert, Jennifer Louden.

Casual games are non-violent games that are simple to learn and difficult to master, and categorized as games that players can leave and pick up again easily. Playtime can vary from a few minutes to hours. Digital puzzles, word games, card games, board games and classic arcade games are all classified in this category.

The research found:* Women over age 40 who play casual games:** 67% play casual games at least four times per week** About half (47%) play every day** About 60% or more would rather play a casual game than talk on the phone, knit or do other projects at home (such as building or painting)** About 50% would rather play casual games than go to a movie or spend time cooking

* Men and women ages 18 and over who play casual games:** 64% do so as a way to unwind and relax** 53% do so for stress relief** 42% cite the activity as a way to keep his/her mind sharp** Among those with children, 75% see educational benefits for their children who play casual games

"It's a wild concept, but I see this trend as a way for women and men to establish mental balance and embrace a healthy form of comfort," Louden said. "Surprisingly, more and more women are turning to casual gaming as a way to cope with stress and take a brief escape from daily responsibilities. As an author and life coach, I've worked with thousands of women for nearly 15 years to develop and encourage ways to better care for ourselves and create healthy, balanced lives that fit our individual needs. It's fascinating to see how people are using technology to comfort themselves."

According to Louden, many people indulge in "shadow comforts," things that we think will make us feel better but don't, like eating too much, shopping for things we don't need or watching TV. Alternately, casual games, which attracted 100 million PC users in 2005, can stimulate the mind and combat loneliness, further supporting mainstream adoption among men, women, senior citizens and children.

"We've always known that the appeal of casual games extends far beyond that of traditional videogames, but never fully understood why until the results of this research," said Michael Schutzler, svp, Games Division at RealNetworks. "Now, with insights from the research conducted by Harris Interactive and Jennifer Louden telling us that people play for stress relief and mental balance, we can appreciate the social impact of casual games and better serve our customers."

This online survey was conducted by Harris Interactive within the U.S. between May 23 and June 1, 2006 among 1,302 adults (aged 18 and over), including 535 women aged 40 and over. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

With pure probability samples, with 100% response rates, it is possible to calculate the probability that the sampling error (but not other sources of error) is not greater than some number. With a pure probability sample of 1,302 adults one could say with a 95% probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/-3.0 percentage points, and +/-4.3 for a sample of 535 women aged 40 and over. However that does not take other sources of error into account. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

RealNetworks Inc. is the leading creator of digital media services and software including Rhapsody, RealPlayer 10 and casual PC and mobile games. RealNetworks has more than 2.2 million paid subscribers to its premium digital media www.real.com. Broadcasters, network operators, media companies and enterprises use RealNetworks' products and services to create and deliver digital media to PCs, mobile phones and consumer electronics devices. For additional information, visit www.realnetworks.com/company.

Harris Interactive is the 12th largest and fastest-growing market research firm in the world. The company provides research-driven insights and strategic advice to help its clients make more confident decisions, which lead to measurable and enduring improvements in performance. More information may be obtained at www.harrisinteractive.com.

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