PlaySpan and VGMarket issued the 2010 Digital Goods Report that tracks consumer spending on virtual goods and microtransactions. The market tracks consumer behavior in virtual goods in specific game genres, from first-party game publishers, and from third-party item marketplaces. This year's report found that the popularity of virtual goods in social games inspired the biggest spending from consumers, with the median paying consumer spending $50 per year. 

This was followed by paying MMO players spending $40 per year, online PC game players $37, and online console game players $20. Roughly 32% of all respondents had spent some amount of money on digital items in a social game. Demographically, male players still drive most digital good sales but women 25 and over spend disproportionately on virtual goods. The average paying female player spent $55 in social games while the average paying male player spent only $30. 

Female players also spend twice as much as their male counterparts when it comes to buying virtual currency, $50 per year to $25 per year. Overall median spending on digital goods was also higher for female players, $80 per year to $60 per year for males. The VGMarket study gathered survey responses from 2221 customers between the ages of 13 and 64 from users of the PlaySpan Marketplace, Facebook via Spare Change, and the Ultimate Game Card. Responses were collected between June 3 and June 30.

Overall, 75% of all survey respondents had purchased some form of digital good within the past 12 months. Paypal was the preferred method of payment for such purchases, used by 43% of respondents. Most respondents to the survey (78% in all) were males around the age of 23 and with an average household income of $46,000. The term "digital goods" in this study covered spending on virtual currency, virtual goods, microtransactions, and additional maps or game levels.

Most users, about 49%, responded that they expect to spend about the same amounts on digital goods in the next year that they had in the previous year. About 30% expected to spend more and 21% expected to spend less. Most respondents who expected to spend more in the next year, about 44%, said it was because they were playing more online games. Most respondents who expected to send less, about 45%, said they expected to have less money to spend overall. 

Who's Spending And Who's Playing

Of 25% of survey respondents who said they had never spent money on digital goods, most (29%) said it was because they did not think it was worth the money. This was followed by 18% saying that they did not want to purchase any virtual content and another 18% saying they were afraid they would lose their money without obtaining the desired digital good. Overall, 41% of survey respondents said that they would prefer to buy digital goods directly from the company that publishes the game. 

Most survey respondents who purchased virtual goods, about 24%, said that they purchased digital goods once every few months. Another 21% said they purchased digital goods a few times every month and 16% said they purchased digital items once per month. Roughly 68% of all in-game virtual goods purchases are made so players can use the purchased items themselves. Most respondents also played many different online games, with 30% saying they played five or more regularly. 

Respondents spent, for the most part, substantial amounts of time per week playing online games. About 17% of respondents said they spent 11 to 20 hours per week, 16% said they spent 6 to 10 hours per week, and another 16% said they spent over 50 hours per week playing. Average time respondents spent per week playing online games was 23.7 hours. The average respondent had played 11 different online games during the past 12 months. 

Most respondents (29%) had played only 1 or 2 social games in the past 12 months, with another 23% having played 3 to 5 games. The average respondent had played 8 social games in the past 12 months, a figure skewed upward by the 19% of respondents who played over 10 social games in the past year. A significant 1% of respondents reported having played between 41 and 50 social games. 

Summaries of the results of prior VGMarket/PlaySpan studies are available here, here, and here

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