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Older Gamers More Likely To Buy Virtual Goods, Suggests Study
Older Gamers More Likely To Buy Virtual Goods, Suggests Study
December 20, 2011 | By Eric Caoili

December 20, 2011 | By Eric Caoili
More: Social/Online, Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing

While younger gamers spend more time playing mobile social games, older players are more likely to buy virtual goods and spend more on them, according to a study by MocoSpace.

The mobile gaming community found the likelihood that consumers will make in-game purchases increases greatly with their age -- implying microtransaction-based mobile games that target older audiences could have an advantage in generating revenue.

Surveying nearly 500,000 users in its network, MocoSpace found only 10 percent of gamers aged 18-25 years old bought virtual goods, compared to 22 percent of 25-35 year olds, 50 percent of 35-45 year olds, and 70 percent of players older than 45 years old.

Though 18-25 year olds made up 43 percent of those polled, they were responsible for 18 percent of virtual goods purchases. Contrast that with gamers aged over 35 years old, who made up 18 percent of the survey but accounted for 42 percent of all virtual goods spending.

Despite older users spending more on virtual goods in mobile social games and being more likely to buy them, the survey's younger participants spent much more time actually playing the titles.

18-25 year olds spent an average of 34.5 minutes playing these games across a three-month period, versus 67.9 minutes for 25-35 year olds (the most active of the categories), 38.9 minutes for 35-45 year olds, and 23.6 minutes for those aged over 45 years old.

MocoSpace argues that older gamers "may have more disposable income, or a desire to progress further within games via virtual goods to save valuable time," while younger users have more disposable time -- requiring different strategies to target both.

"We're seeing parents go from spending money on buying games for their kids, to spending money on virtual goods in games for themselves," says MocoSpace CEO Justin Siegel.

He adds, "The time-versus-money balance seems to come into play here, where young people have more time than money, and the reverse holds true as we all grow up."

As a result, the company believes that an advertising-driven model may be more profitable than a purely virtual goods-based approach when targeting younger players.

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Bart Stewart
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This supports a point I've been trying to make for a while now.

Given that most disposable income is in the wallets of 30-50-year-old workers, i.e. not teens and twenty-somethings, it's strange to me that so many developers persist in targeting the mechanics of games to teens and twenty-somethings.

It's arguable that considerable content in today's games is pretty mature, and have the M ratings to prove it. But that may simply be just another aspect of entertainment creators trying to be "edgy" and push boundaries. It doesn't necessarily imply that developers are consciously trying to extend their products with features that appeal to the 30-50-year-old gamers who have the money to spend on games.

I don't know that what's needed is something like a few studios specifically targeting "silver gamers" (or whatever they get called), although it wouldn't be bad to have a few such. But is there any hope that news stories like this one will awaken publishers to the reality of who actually has the cash to buy games, and start nudging conventional developers to make games with mechanics and features that are particularly fun for these gamers?

What features might those be, anyway?

Roger Tober
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I think people that buy virtual goods in games don't have a firm grip on reality. I'm older, so it doesn't apply to me. I also think people that buy lottery tickets don't have a firm grip on reality.