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23% of app gamers only play on mobile

NPD study finds 59% of app gamers' playtime spent on smartphones and tablets, 30% buy upgrades or IAP

New research from the NPD Group offers some perspective on the overlap between mobile and console or PC gamers. According to the company's Mobile Gaming 2012 report, an August survey with more than 5,900 respondents found that of those who play on mobile devices, 23 percent do so exclusively. Additionally, 59 percent of all app gamers' playtime was spent on a mobile device.

The NPD Group's findings also underscored a key challenge facing mobile developers: getting people to actually spend money on their games. Of those who are playing more games this year than last, 37 percent said free apps were a main reason why.

However, there was some willingness to spend, as 30 percent of app gamers said they had either upgraded from a free app to a paid version, or made an in-game purchase. On average, respondents said $3 for such an expenditure represented a good value. Breaking down the app gamer market a little further, the NPD Group found that tablet gamers were more likely to have made in-app purchases or upgraded to paid versions of games than their smartphone-using counterparts.

"Many mobile gaming consumers have grown accustomed to gaming for free, making it essential to find the sweet spot for pricing that encourages purchasing by as many consumers as possible," NPD analyst Liam Callahan said, adding, "Another opportunity for the industry as a whole is to convert mobile-only gamers to engage in other gaming activities across portables, consoles and PC's where we see more money being spent per user."

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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