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xboxliveThe number of people who play video games without an online connection is quickly dwindling, according to the results of a study released today. The report by the NPD research firm found that 72 percent of U.S. gamers now play games online, up 5 percentage points from last year.

It’s not a huge surprise, but the general trend could be positive for Microsoft. Rumors that the company will require an “always on” online connection in the next-generation Xbox console have stirred controversy among some gamers who question the need for a mandatory Internet connection. Microsoft, which is scheduled to unveil the new Xbox later this month, hasn’t yet officially confirmed the plan.

On the other hand, the stat also means more than a quarter of gamers aren’t yet gaming online.

Among other highlights from the survey: The number of U.S. gamers who use a PC for online gaming declined by 4 percentage points over the past year, to 68 percent. That’s still enough to make the PC the most popular platform for online gaming but mobile is catching up quickly. The number of respondents who said they use mobile devices for online gaming rose 12 percentage points over the same time period, to 56 percent.

The online survey was conducted in February and March, completed by more than 8,800 people who belong to NPD’s online panel.

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