Free-to-play games account for over half of digital purchases

Study shows free games, followed by MMOs, take biggest numbers of sales

By Kath Brice.Published Monday 14th September 2009, 9:22am GMT

Free-to-play games take more in digital revenue than any other genre of game, followed by MMOs and social network games, according to a recent survey.

58 per cent of respondents had spent money in free-to-play games such as EA's Battlefield Heroes over the last 12 months, say the results, while 34 per cent had forked out in an MMO and 23 per cent on a social network.

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Free-to-play games were also found to be enjoying the highest spend of all of the genres, with the median average expenditure coming out at USD 75, followed by MMOs at USD 60 and social networks at USD 50.

The average respondent to the VGMarket survey, which quizzed users of the PlaySpan Marketplace, Spare Change and Ultimate Game Card, reported they were currently playing three online games. 80 per cent said they bought digital goods for their own use and 20 per cent said they purchased them as gifts.

Following behind the most popular three genres for digital spending were PC online, on which 12 per cent had spent money, console online with nine per cent, and casual games also with nine per cent.

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Also surveyed were the most popular types of items bought by these gamers, with the biggest share by far going to in-game currency. 73 per cent of respondents said they had bought currency in the last 12 months, with weapons coming second with 40 per cent, wearables 32 per cent, subscription codes 30 per cent, power ups 29 per cent and virtual gifts 20 per cent.

The highest average spend - USD 50 - went on the in-game currency, with subscription codes coming second with an average of USD 30.

"Each type of digital good has a unique level of demand, and the amount of money that a consumer spends on digital goods varies significantly by the genre of the game," said Michael Gluck, VGMarket president. "Publishers can use this insight to forecast revenue, make the right development investments, and effectively allocate marketing dollars."

Last month, EA revealed its average transaction value in Battlefield Heroes was USD 20.

The survey, which quizzed 2425 people, was carried out by the market research firm and sponsored by PlaySpan.

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