PlaySpan: A third of gamers have used real-world money to buy virtual goods

Gamers are taking to their wallets rather than completing advertiser offers to purchase in-game content, according to a study of 1000 gamers’ online behavior commissioned by PlaySpan (which is a company owned by Visa — the ultimate point of this was to see how often people use credit/debit cards for virtual content).

The study found that one-third of gamers has used real money to purchase virtual content, with almost 60 percent of those claiming to make virtual item purchases at least once a month. Console gamers actually buy more content than any other group, with social network games and MMOs coming in at the second- and third-place positions, respectively.

This is a trend that doesn’t appear to be going away — 72 percent of participants expected to spend the same amount or more on virtual goods in 2011 than they did in 2010. 67 percent of those are just playing more games online these days, with other people having more money to spend or just claiming that the purchase process is just too easy. (It really is. One tap, and I’m another dollar in the hole as far as some phone games go.) In-game rewards were also a popular reason for item purchases.

48 percent of respondents bought in-game currency over the past year, while maps and levels came in at 47 percent. That pretty much encompasses most things that you’d purchase for a game. Armor and equipment purchases came in at 29 percent.

There were a few gender differences in purchases. Women were almost three times more likely to use Facebook credits for items and content for social games, and they also outspend men when it comes to buying items in MMOs — women spent $111 for every $74 a man spends on first-party items. The same differences were true for casual free-to-play titles.

“It was…quite interesting to learn that women (37 percent) are nearly twice as likely as men (19 percent) to buy virtual items to decorate a page, persona or avatar,” said Karl Mehta, Founder and CEO of PlaySpan.

Hobbies and purchase habits were correlated, it seems. (But remember, correlation ≠ causation!) Self-reported sports enthusiasts spend an average of $106 on first-party content, and $132 on third-party virtual items. Readers averaged $65 and $49. Readers, however, were much more likely to purchase additional content for online PC titles.

“The results of this report should serve as a useful guide for game publishers and developers, and will provide a insight into revenue opportunities to be derived from usage trends across multiple data sets,” said Michael Gluck, President, VGMarket.

Read the full report below:

Playspan Virtual Goods Report.8.4.11