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Beyond the microtransaction: how players spend

By on September 16, 2014

Games publishers increasingly find that offering higher priced options results in an overall increase in revenue without cannibalizing on overall sales. In this guest post, Massimiliano Silenzi of Onebip asks, have Mobile Payments moved beyond microtransactions? And what are the other trends registered in gamers’ buying behaviour?


Earlier this year we conducted a thorough analysis of our merchants’ customers’ buying behaviour around the world. And by thorough we mean thorough – we sifted through millions of mobile payment transactions by Onebip users who made in-game purchases via carrier billing from 65 countries across the course of a full year. We analysed Onebip’s internal data of transactions made by gamers worldwide that charge their purchases to their mobile phone bill. We did this because we wanted to know if there were any common trends that could be attributed to gamers all over the world, which countries had their own unique little quirks, what trends were there in carrier billing adoption worldwide and what lessons could be learned from our best performing countries that could be shared with our partners elsewhere. We also firmly believe that every business decision should be driven by the analysis of data whenever possible, so it was with that in mind that we published our annual analysis of gaming transactions.

So if you’ve ever wondered when the best time of the day is to market your next game, read on…

The higher the available price points, the more gamers will spend

The average value of a single in-game transaction made via carrier billing now stands at €4.73 globally. In the UK gamers spend nearly double this – with average transactions valued at €8.94 (the third highest in the world). But even the UK is dwarfed by gamers in Switzerland who spend a whopping €15.09 per single transaction – over three times the global average.

Top 10 spenders by average mobile transaction value

Rank Country Average transaction value
1 Switzerland € 15.09 / $ 19.55
2 Austria € 9.37 / $ 12.12
3 United Kingdom € 8.94 / $ 11.58
4 Singapore € 8.65 / $ 11.21
5 Belgium € 8.63 / $ 11.18
6 Norway € 8.45 / $ 10.95
7 Italy € 7.68 / $ 9.95
8 Turkey € 7.57 / $ 9.81
9 Finland € 7.43 / $ 9.63
10 Romania € 7.39 / $ 9.57

So what’s driving these figures? While it is worth noting that the penetration of carrier billing differs from one country to the next, as do the regulatory environments of each country, there are still some conclusions we can draw. One of the major reasons why gamers in Switzerland spend so much per transaction is due to the fact that Swiss carriers allow gaming companies to charge much higher price points to gamers that pay using carrier billing compared to most other countries. By higher price points we mean that when presented with multiple price points for in-game items (i.e. for bundles of the game’s virtual currency), our analysis has found that offering gamers higher priced options sees an overall increase in revenue for the developer from that customer.

This trend is reflected in other countries too outside of Switzerland. Turkey, which has a population over 9x that of Switzerland, has experienced the same trend of an increase in the average mobile payment transaction value and revenue when higher price points were introduced by local carriers. For example, when the highest price point was increased in Turkey from 50TL to 70TL, our data showed an increase of 16% in the average transaction value and a 22% increase in the gross transaction volume generated. As carriers introduce more flexible and higher pricing options and more advanced billing technologies, we believe that carrier billing will gain further traction for game companies that use it as a key payment channel. We predict that in markets such as Turkey and Spain, where carriers have only recently introduced higher price points, online game retailers there will see an increase in their revenue and average transaction values.

Top 3 growing markets by average transaction value

1 Spain
2 Turkey
3 Russia

Gamers spend more in the summer than the winter

While no one will be surprised to hear that December is the busiest single month of the year for online gaming spend (accounting for 11% of annual spend), it is the summer that is the busiest season overall. The summer months of June, July and August account for 30% of global annual spend, whereas the winter period of December, January and February accounts for 28%. The spring is the quietest time of the year by a long margin, with just 14% of sales taking place during the months of March through to May.

UK gamers are more nocturnal than most

In the UK, the most gaming transactions happen in the evening from 18.00 – 23.59 (GMT/UT) with 38% of daily transactions happening during this time. This may not come as a surprise for most UK gamers, however they may be surprised to hear that this trend is not reflected by gamers around the world. Globally most gamers prefer to spend their money in the afternoon than the evening, with 42% of all global transactions taking place between the hours of 12.00-17.59 (UT/GMT).

Reinforcing the view that UK gamers are more nocturnal than most, we found an unusual spike in activity during the hour starting at 22.00 GMT, where 13% of all daily transactions take place in the UK (this is a dramatic increase from the hours before and after that time – 21.00 and 23.00 respectively – where only 3% and 5% of daily transactions take place).

Gamers don’t just save their fun for the weekends…

While it is true that more mobile payment transactions take place on Saturday than on any other day in the week, the spike is not statistically very significant, with between 1-2% more transactions on Saturday over on any other day. Clearly gamers are finding time to play all week, or at the least, they don’t feel the need to wait until the weekend to spend their money!

Day of the week: Proportion of global transactions per day of the week

  Day of the week Proportion of weekly transactions
Saturday 15.7%
Tuesday 15.1%
Monday 14.3%
Thursday 13.8%
Sunday 13.8%
Wednesday 13.7%
Friday 13.6%

So what is the answer to maximising revenue?

Our analysis has shown that there are both global trends to how gamers spend and country-specific anomalies. Overall we can see that gamers spend consistently throughout the week, so is there much point in running a weekend promotion? The summer period is when they spend more money than any other point in the year, so don’t think that Christmas is the only time to make serious money (and don’t expect to sell much during the spring). Of course seasonal festivals and holidays also do have an impact on spend depending on the market.  Lastly, where local regulations allow it, don’t be afraid to offer higher price points to your customers as an option for mobile payments via carrier billing. As the data has shown, online gamers are not as afraid to spend more per transaction than you may think.

The sheer volume of data, combined with the rising price points being used, also shows that carrier billing continues to come into its own for the world’s online gamers.For many game retailers, mobile carrier billing is fast emerging as one of the most important payment and monetisation channels for them because it enables “unbanked” and “uncarded” users to make game or in-game purchases. Clearly these gamers want to spend just as much as those who pay with the more traditional methods like credit cards, so don’t leave them wanting!

About Massimiliano Silenzi

Massimiliano Silenzi is the Head of Onebip by Neomobile