A recent report from analysis firm eMarketer projects 68.7 million Americans will be social game players by 2012, representing 29 percent of the total U.S. Internet population.
The projected number -- which includes people who play at least one game on a social network at least once a month -- is up 30 percent from eMarketer's estimate of 53 million U.S. social gamers in 2010, or 24 percent of all U.S. Internet users.
The new projection represents a slower growth rate for the number of social gamers than the firm has seen over the past two years, a slowdown eMarketer attributes to a recent dip in use of the top 15 Facebook games. Those titles represent an estimated 75 percent of all social game use, according to eMarketer.
The analysis firm believes the recent dip in social game use, which started in September, may be the result of a change in Facebook's notification policies, which limited game-makers' ability to spread games through automatic wall posts.
But positive signs, such as 6 percent year-over-year growth in January social game use on MySpace, led report author Paul Verna to suggest that interest in social gaming won't continue to decline in the long run.
eMarketer's projections are based on data aggregated from eight other tracking and analysis firms, including the NPD Group and InsideSocialGames.
The same report projected the U.S. social game market would generate $1.1 billion this year
, up 27.7 percent from 2010. That number will include $192 million in projected spending from U.S. advertisers, according to and August eMarketer report