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Who’s buying apps and virtual goods?

By on March 21, 2012

This year’s GDC was packed with juicy data on virtual goods sales. Peter Warman from Newzoo showed that in 2011, revenues from freemium games revenue dramatically increased in the holiday season just as packaged goods games games do; however, revenue remained at that high point after the holiday was over, rather than tapering off in the new year. He suggested that this is because under the games on a service model, players don’t pay a one-off fee but spend gradually over time.

Image by Jenn Ster, shared on Flickr under a CC licence

Your Mom spends even more on virtual goods than you do

Playspan also brought some interesting figures to the conference, based on their market research surveys. In 2011, 25% of US consumers aged 13-54 bought a virtual good, a figure that has doubled since 2009. When looking not at the population as a whole, but gamers specifically, that figure increases to 35%. Total spend on virtual goods was up 28% on the previous year.

2/3 of virtual goods purchasers are young and male, but when looking at the amount of money spent in a year by people who purchase virtual goods, women in their 50s lead that pack, spending over $100 a year on average. This group is also the most likely to gift virtual goods to other people.

The most commonly cited barriers to buying virtual goods were arguably caused by game design: non-spending respondents felt that they were not necessary or present in the games played (32% and 35%), or that they seemed pointless (24%). Reasons for buying virtual goods were to do more in the game (55%) and to get a better experience in the game (49%).

About Zoya Street

I’m responsible for all written content on the site. As a freelance journalist and historian, I write widely on how game design and development have changed in the past, how they will change in the future, and how that relates to society and culture as a whole. I’m working on a crowdfunded book about the Dreamcast, in which I treat three of the game-worlds it hosted as historical places. I also write at and The Borderhouse.