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Study: U.S. Gamers Spent $3.8 Billion On MMOs in 2009
Study: U.S. Gamers Spent $3.8 Billion On MMOs in 2009
March 9, 2010 | By Eric Caoili

March 9, 2010 | By Eric Caoili
More: Console/PC

U.S. gamers spent $3.8 billion on massively multiplayer online games in 2009, almost 15 times more than other substantial MMO markets in Europe, according to a new study.

Consumer data from Today's Gamers MMO Focus Report by and TNS indicates that the number of MMO players in the U.S. has reached 46 million, 46 percent (21 million) of which paid to play online games; the rest, around 25 million gamers, play MMOs without spending any money. The average paying MMO player spent around $15.10 per month on their games.

The report points out that Blizzard's World of Warcraft has the most number of players in the U.S. out of all the MMOs it tracked, just in front of NeoPets and Club Penguin. Other MMOs in the top five include Disney ToonTown and RuneScape.

The study also breaks down the $3.8 billion total spent on MMOs in 2009: 47 percent ($1.8 billion) was spent on monthly subscriptions, 15 percent ($580 million) on annual subscriptions, 19 percent ($740 million) on virtual currency, 8 percent ($280 million) on direct microtransactions, and 11 percent ($400 million) on the initial boxed product or client download.

Consumers in the UK, which has the second highest total measured by the report, spent only $270 million on MMOs in 2009. However, the country's total had the highest percentage of revenues from direct microtransactions, 19 percent ($51 million).

Germany ($250 million total), France ($220 million), and the Netherlands ($65 million) had the biggest 2009 revenue percentages from virtual currency, each pulling in at least 26 percent from that source. Belgium's ($55 million) revenues had the highest percentages for monthly and annual subscriptions, at 53 percent and 20 percent respectively.

Today's Gamers MMO Focus Report adds that it expects growth in MMO revenues from countries such as Italy, Spain, Russia, Turkey, Poland and Sweden.

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Anthony Charles
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weird story. why not adjust for population differential? the most populace european country has like 1/4 as many people as the US. comparing apples and oranges.

Hillwins Lee
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Would be more interesting if the report also show Asia breakdown, the differences will be quite dramatic.

Peter Warman
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@Anhony. Weird story? :-) A lot of efort has been put in by ourselves and TNS to select respondents to represent a nations demographic profile. A relative large number of Americans plays MMOs, they spend more time and mone on average. That is why the total amount of money spent is more than simply four times that of the UK for instance. You can find all information by looking at the seven graphs: Most definitely comparing apples with apples is hat we are all about. Please let me know if you have any specific questions or data needs. Peter Warman, MD

Peter Warman
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Thanks for your comment. Naturally we would not put out important data like this without deep analysis of our consumer data and cross-referencing with other sources and ways of measuring revenues. Accurate and complete figures on online game revenues, being casual game portals or MMOGs are hard to come by.

Most often revenues are reported based on the revenues of some top companies or, in the case of MMOs, by taking the number of subscribers or numbers of boxes sold as starting point. With the growing number of online business models in place and the long tail of more than 500 MMOGs, this gives an incomplete picture.

NPD reports that US MMO subscription revenues is at approx. $1bn this year. Our data shows $1.8bn in monthly subscriptions and an additional $580M in annual subscriptions. We have taken virtual worlds (e.g. secondlife, habbo, clubpenguin, neopets) within the scope of MMOs as the divide is hard to make for consumers. So add all kids subscriptions to ClubPenguin etc to this. US MMO related retail sales is reported to be a few hundred million dollars which matches our data.

We tend to look only at World of Warcraft and see others as small compared to WoW. Yes they are the clear leader, but others are benefiting from this new genre and the fact people expect toi pay for MMOs, somewhere down the line. The last years the turnover of WoW has grown but the total MMO turnover has multiplied several times, also due to the success of Free to Play virtual currency and micro-transaction models.

Do not forget that European players such as BigPoint and Gameforge are making hundreds of millions at the moment, with a major part of their income coming from US consumers, mainly micro-transactions and virtual goods. And what to think of NCSoft, THQ Ice, GOA etc. And as stated before, we included kids MMOs & Virtual worlds in there as well.

Soon we will be reporting our Console, PC game and Online Casual spent across all business models. The analysis looks good at the moment and there are some surprises there as well.

Last note:

WoW has 2-2.5M US subscribers (see article comment previously on Gamasutra)

46M Americans state to play MMOs/Virtual Worlds

46% = 21M state to pay.

Is it strange to expect that 19M non-WoW players spend at least a couple times what is spent on WoW?