Paying for all those virtual tractors and fences on "FarmVille" adds up. Spending on virtual goods in the U.S. rose 28% to $2.3 billion in 2011, per Visa-owned e-commerce company PlaySpan and Frank N. Magid Associates.
Among consumers, seven in 10 can be classified as gamers. Half of U.S. gamers bought virtual items last year, and one-third of the 600 gamers surveyed overall for the study. The average spent was $64 in 2011. U.S. male gamers were almost twice as likely as their female counterparts to purchase these virtual goods.
Players typically bought virtual goods to be able to advance a level in a game, to have a better in-game experience or create an avatar. Among those who haven’t made purchases, it was because they don’t play games where virtual items are needed or add to the enjoyment of game play.
Nearly half (48%) of gamers that made purchases did so through games played on a console, such as Xbox Live or PlayStation, 42% directly within a game application and 40% from a pre-paid card from a retail store. Only 16% did so through an online store and 13% from a game publisher’s own site.
Among other findings, only 26% have bought virtual goods as gifts, suggesting a bigger opportunity in that area. Key factors affecting purchases included price, the genre of the game, friends’ recommendations, user reviews and if a game can be played with friends.