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DFC: Virtual Goods Adoption Grows, 'MMO Lite' To Reach $3 Billion By 2015
DFC: Virtual Goods Adoption Grows, 'MMO Lite' To Reach $3 Billion By 2015
March 29, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

March 29, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

88 percent of gamers surveyed have bought virtual content, says a study from DFC Intelligence, in partnership with monetization platform company Live Gamer.

Research firm DFC and Live Gamer studied some 5,000 gamers in North America and Europe during the first two months of 2010, and included seven years of Live Gamer's historical data from around the world.

According to the survey, "digital content" also includes music, movies and games, and isn't limited to virtual goods bought through microtransactions, as players can do in popular Western social games like FarmVille on Facebook or Sony Online Entertainment's family-friendly Free Realms MMO.

60 percent of the respondents who said they'd bought something, however, said the content they paid for was an in-game item, not a full game. "In most cases, the digital items are offered in free-to-play products, which are low risk for the consumer," says DFC analyst David Cole.

DFC's report draws a distinction between "large commercial massively multiplayer online games", which are large in size, high in production value, and charge subscription fees -- presumably like World of Warcraft -- and what the firm calls "MMOG Lite", which provide persistent worlds and character-building gameplay without the same kind of cost investment.

DFC says the "MMOG Lite" category, which presumably includes games like Free Realms, RuneScape and MapleStory, was worth $800 million in 2009 -- and will top $3 billion by 2015.

"Korea still has the highest current revenue and longest history of all the markets we studied," says Cole. "However, when looking at seven years of actual historical transactional data, it is clear markets like Germany, Japan and the U.S. are not only trending towards Korea, but doing so at a significantly higher spend per transaction," said Cole.

DFC says the stats on adoption of virtual content purchases bode well for virtual item models for other game genres that can "benefit from growing consumer acceptance of digital items."

Says DFC analyst Jeremy Miller: "Furthermore, the success of social networks like Facebook show the popularity of virtual items can extend far beyond games."

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Bart Stewart
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I think I’m a little confused. There’s a difference between "virtual content" and "digital content."

Does that "88%" statistic refer to gamers who acknowledge buying *virtual* content, defined as objects or benefits existing only within the virtual world of some game? (And does that include single-player games?)

Or does it describe the number of gamers who say they’ve bought *digital* content, which could be just downloading a song from iTunes and which has nothing directly to do with gaming?

I have the feeling it's the latter, in which case saying that "88 percent of gamers surveyed have bought virtual content" may be significantly overstating the true number of gamers who have actually bought virtual objects or benefits for a game.

Tim Johnston
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Agreed. Lets get some clarification on that point. I thought I read over on Inside Social Games that roughly 20% of social gamers purchase virtual goods. Not a bad percentage.

George Hufnagl
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Yes, and I recently read via the Flash Games Summit that of the people playing casual Flash games, that only 1-4% playing those games were purchasing related goods (power-ups, level packs, etc.) They even stated that the data is inconsistent at this stage since, at least in the Western world, this is a new phenomena.

Lars Kroll Kristensen
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Well, with regards to the flash games statistic, the sheer number of people playing "casual flash games" is *huge* compared to the number of people that are frequent visitors to one or more virtual worlds. Regular visitors to virtual worlds are probably significantly more likely to buy virtual items that people who have just played tetris or diner dash while the boss wasn't looking :-).

By the way: The article states that: "According to the survey, "digital content" also includes music, movies and games, and isn't limited to virtual goods bought through microtransactions,"

It also says that 60% of the 88% stated that they had bought virtual items, so presumably that means that 52.8% of the total respondents had bought virtual items, which seems surprisingly high to me.