According to a new study conducted by VGMarket and commissioned by Playspan, U.S. gamers have shifted from using credits earned from advertising offers to "real world" payments for digital goods using debit, credit and prepaid cards. The data comes from a survey compiled in July 2011 from over 1000 gamers drawn from a VGMarket database.
According to the study, nearly one-third (31 percent) of the gaming population has used real world money to purchase virtual content. Of those 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 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.
The survey found that 72 percent of respondents indicated that they expect to spend the same or more money on games in 2011 as they did in 2010. Around 67 percent of those who intended to spend more said they were playing more online games than last year, with 42 percent saying they have more money to spend. About 32 percent claimed ease of purchase as the main reason, while greater in-game rewards (30 percent) was the fourth most popular reason.
Around 48 percent of the gaming population said they have purchased in-game currency over the last 12 months, with maps and levels coming in second with 47 percent, and armor and equipment third at 29 percent.
Females were almost three times more likely than males to use Facebook credits to purchase virtual items or content and 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, the differences were even greater, with women spending 40 percent more than men from 1st party publishers and more than three times as much from third-party publishers.
Based on Geographical location, consumers on the west coast ($36) spend approximately 60 percent more on weapons than the average east coast gamer ($22), with nearly identical results for armor and equipment ($36 vs. $21).
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. 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.
Finally, the survey found that men prefer email, while 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).
To obtain the full survey, check out Playspan.com.