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Report: Free-to-Play market worth $7bn by 2015

Survey finds that less than 1 per cent of Facebook users make in-game purchases

New research published by DFC Intelligence and microtransactions firm Live Gamer suggests that the free-to-play and "MMO Lite" market could increase in value to over $7 billion by 2015.

The information comes from a new survey entitled "Consumer Trends in Virtual Goods and Downloadable Gaming in North America and Europe", which projects a doubling of revenues for the market from its 2009 value.

Rather than full subscription-based massively multiplayer online titles, MMO Lite products such as Free Realms, RuneScape and MapleStory gain their revenues from virtual items and optional subscriptions.

The model remains most popular in Asian markets, but DFC projects that in North America and Europe alone the market will grow from $800 million in 2009 to over $3 billion by 2015.

The survey has also found that top free-to-play Korean titles, with a large client download and more traditional gameplay are able to covert over 10 per cent of users into paying customers. With more casual Facebook titles though, less than 1 per cent of users were found to have purchased goods or currencies within the game.

"Another interesting result of this study is that the idea that F2P games have a 'microtransaction' business model is actually quite misleading," said DFC analyst David Cole. "Historically, the average purchase is over $10 and some games offer an optional subscription. Going forward, it is obvious that understanding consumer purchase patterns and preferences will be a necessity for continued success."

"The free-to-play model is increasing in popularity at an astounding rate, both in the US and worldwide," said Andrew Schneider, co-founder and president of Live Gamer. "We're seeing average revenue per paying user top $28 per month across the 145 titles that Live Gamer powers around the world."