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US mobile virtual goods market worth $168m

New study reveals 23 per cent of US population owns a smartphone

A new study suggests that Americans spent $168 million on mobile virtual goods in 2009, with over 70 million Americans - 23 per cent of the population - now owning some kind of smartphone.

Research firm Frank N. Magid Associates and mobile social gaming network OpenFeint created the Magid Media Futures 2010 Wireless and Consumers study to examine the specifics of the mobile virtual goods market in the US.

They found that 45 per cent of smartphone owners play mobile games and 16 per cent of those spend an average of $41 per year on in-game virtual goods.

A total of 55 per cent of smartphone gamers expressed an interest in buying virtual goods, with the largest demographic being men between the age of 18 and 34.

Smartphone gamers were found to download an average of 14 games per year, paying for four games on average and obtaining the rest for free. Application store reviews and word of mouth proved to be the most influential factors on downloading a game.

"Everybody knows free-to-play social gaming models on PC platforms have been making a killing, but mobile virtual goods aren't as well understood," said Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors.

"With almost 20 per cent of smartphone gamers already making purchases, there's a lot of room for the market to keep taking off as smartphones continue to increase in popularity," he added.