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Virtual goods revenue continues to climb

New data shows that users are still buying virtual goods. Will this trend continue or will users eventually tire of constantly paying for in-game goods?

Heavy virtual goods buyers
Heavy virtual goods buyers Magid/PlaySpan

New survey data from research firm Magid and Associates and in-game commerce provider PlaySpan shows that virtual goods sales continue to grow, with games leading the way to monetization.

Virtual goods remain a promising alternative to advertising, and even to subscription revenue for many games and social networks. As mobile games continue to play an important role in gaming revenue, I would expect to see the sales of virtual goods continue to skew toward mobile devices as users seek instant gratification and bite-sized chunks of high-quality gameplay.

The follow-up to last year's survey reveals that buying habits aren't changing, rather that more individuals in a broader range of age groups are partaking in virtual good purchases. Not surprisingly, the users who visit virtual worlds regularly, along with those who play games across a variety of platforms, make purchases more consistently.

Highlights from the report:

  • 13 percent of consumers with Internet access have bought digital or virtual goods online in the past 12 months; 21 percent of these virtual goods buyers will buy more in the next 12 months.
  • On average, virtual goods buyers spent $92 on virtual goods last year.
  • iPhone owners, virtual world regular visitors, and frequent gamers are the heaviest virtual goods buyers.
  • More than 50 percent of buyers bought virtual goods in a game.
  • A net of 48 percent of buyers bought digital goods through a social network site; more than one-third bought goods in a free Web-based game.

Despite all of the interest and revenue growth in virtual goods, there remains a question as to whether or not users will become fatigued from constantly being asked to buy additional in-game things, as well as a question regarding the impact of the different monetary forms, such as Facebook credits, that are just starting to make progress against both PayPal and standard credit cards.