One Out of Three Gamers Has Used “Real World” Money to Purchase Virtual Content, According to New PlaySpan/VG Market Study

Share Article

72 Percent Say They Will Spend More or the Same on Virtual Goods in 2011 vs. 2010

PlaySpan Logo

“It was also quite interesting to learn that women (37 percent) are nearly twice as likely as men (19 percent) to buy virtual items to decorate a page, persona or avatar,” said Karl Mehta, Founder and CEO of PlaySpan.

U.S. Gamers, whose online purchases of digital goods were once paid for largely by credits earned from advertiser offers, now say they are migrating to “real world” payment for digital goods using debit, credit and prepaid cards, according to a new study of online gamer behavior commissioned by PlaySpan, a Visa company (NYSE: V), and undertaken by research firm VGMarket. The survey data was compiled in July 2011 from over 1000 gamers drawn from a VGMarket database.

Summary of key findings

According to the study, nearly one-third (31 percent) of the general gamer population has used real world money to purchase virtual content. Of those gamers who use real world money, 57 percent said they make purchases of virtual items using real world money at least once every month. Console games with online play account for the majority (51 percent) of virtual purchases using real world money, with social networking games (30 percent) and Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs) coming in at second and third respectively.

Overall, 72 percent of respondents indicated they expect to spend the same or more money on games in 2011 as they did in 2010. 67 percent of those who intend to spend more said they were playing more online games than last year, with 42 percent saying they have more money to spend. 32 percent claimed ease of purchase as the main reason, while greater in-game rewards (30 percent) were the fourth most popular reason.

48 percent of the general gamer population said they have purchased in-game currency over the last 12 months, with maps and levels (aids and extensions of games) coming in at second with 47 percent, and armor and equipment third at 29 percent.

Gender differences in virtual goods payment

Overall, females are almost three times more likely than males to use Facebook credits to purchase virtual items or content and they outspend males in virtual goods purchases in MMOs with an average spend of $111 vs. $74 (when purchasing directly from the game maker) and $86 vs. $77 (when purchasing from a third party source).

With casual games (simple, minimal commitment games that are usually free), the differences are even greater, with women 40 percent more than men from 1st party publishers and more than three times as much from third-party publishers.

“It was also quite interesting to learn that women (37 percent) are nearly twice as likely as men (19 percent) to buy virtual items to decorate a page, persona or avatar,” said Karl Mehta, Founder and CEO of PlaySpan.

Breakdown of purchase tables:

Approximate real-world money that gamers spent on virtual currency, items, or content in each type of game (from first party publishers) in the last 12 months:

Game Type:                                                Males (Avg. per year)             /         Females (Avg. per year)

MMOs:                                                            $77                     /                         $86

Free-to-play games:                                    $62                        /                        $56

PC Games with Online Play:                        $62                     /                         $80

Console Games with Online Play:            $60                     /                         $60

Social Networking Games:                        $46                         /                     $54

Casual Games:                                                $36                        /                        $51

Approximate real-world money that gamers spent on virtual currency, items, or content in each type of game (from third-party websites) in the last 12 months:

Game Type:                                                Males (Avg. per year)            /            Females (Avg. per year)

MMOs:                                                            $74                     /                         $111

Free-to-play games:                                    $53                     /                         $24

PC Games with Online Play:                        $47                     /                         $82

Console Games with Online Play:            $48                     /                         $52

Social Networking Games:                        $39                     /                         $38

Casual Games:                                                $28                        /                        $62

Geography differences

The west ($36) spends approximately 60 percent more on weapons than the average east coast gamer ($22). And these results are nearly identical for armor and equipment ($36 vs. $21).

Psychographic Results—athletes buy more than bookworms

Cross-tabulations of the survey revealed significant purchasing differences between self-defined sports enthusiasts and readers. Sports types spent an average of $106 from first party and $132 on third party sites compared to readers, who averaged $65 and $49 respectively. However, readers had a much higher spend on PC Games with Online Play, averaging $79 a year from first party sites and $69 from third party sites, whereas those who play sports average $60 and $46 in the genre.

Promotional differences: Men prefer email, women prefer Facebook    

Men and women show pronounced differences in the type of communication they prefer for the promotion of a virtual currency item. Men (49 percent) are much more receptive than women (38 percent) to email communications, while women (31 percent) much prefer promotions on Facebook to men (18 percent).

“The results of this report should serve as a useful guide for game publishers and developers, and will provide a insight into revenue opportunities to be derived from usage trends across multiple data sets,” said Michael Gluck, President, VGMarket.

To obtain the full survey results please go to:

About PlaySpan Inc.

PlaySpan, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) provides a global payments solution through its UltimatePay product, which enables users to make safe, convenient and friendly in-app purchases using over 85 global payment methods in 180 countries. UltimatePay includes PlaySpan's Ultimate Game Card, the #1 selling multi-game pre-paid card, available in more than 50,000 retail locations across North America.

The company has won 12 awards during past three years and was honored by 2010 OnMedia Top 100, and the AlwaysOn Global 250. Karl Mehta, won the 2010 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of Year Award for Northern California, and was named to Business Insider’s Digital 100 for 2010.

About VGMarket

VGMarket is a market research firm specializing in the video game industry, with experience providing online survey research, concept testing, and play testing for top tier franchises such as The Sims, Battlefield, Need for Speed, Lord of the Rings, Littlest Pet Shop, Rolando, Dead Space, and Mafia Wars. Clients include EA, Capcom, 2K, Ubisoft, Smith & Tinker, PlaySpan, ngmoco, and Zynga. Known for low prices, fast turn-around, and high quality methodology, VGMarket is widely regarded as the best value in video game market research.

VSC PR for PlaySpan
Eric Gonzalez, 415-272-0836

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Eric Gonzalez
Email >
Visit website