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Three Lessons about Mobile Virtual Goods by Gender, Ethnicity, and Age

by Justin Siegel on 12/08/11 05:10:00 pm   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Virtual goods are driving the gaming industry. But before you cash in, know your audience.

To assist developers in creating profitable games we’d like to share some interesting data on who’s buying mobile virtual goods.

1. Guys spend the money…but women like to play just as much 

Although there’s an equal number of male gamers and female gamers on MocoSpace, there’s disparity in how much they spend. Men account for almost 90% of virtual goods sales in mobile games, outspending women 9 to 1. But if women are playing – and spending about the same time, at that – are there ways to reach them? There’s a challenge in reaching women with virtual goods that appeal to them, but developers could look at this as an untapped audience. Still, keep in mind the guys, who are already spending on virtual goods.

2. Game spending varies by ethnicity, enabling a new era of titles to be developed that maximize preferences

Both Caucasians and African Americans over-index on virtual goods spending, with Caucasians spending more on virtual goods, even though they don’t spend the most amount of time gaming, compared to other ethnic groups. This is an opportunity to truly understand your consumer. With groups that spend less, different revenue models should be employed, such as in-game advertising. With higher-spending segments, virtual goods should be core to the gaming experience.

3. Younger gamers spend more time, but older gamers spend more money

There’s a distinct association between a gamer’s age and their willingness to spend on virtual goods. Flurry also confirms this: “Younger consumers spend a lot more time, but older consumers spend a lot more money.” Those under 25 are the most active gamers, but those over 25 spend more on virtual goods. When gamers are segmented by their virtual goods spending, spending increases in proportion with age, in lock step. It seems that the older we get, the more obligations we have, and the less time we have to spend on gaming – but we still want to play. Older gamers enjoy the fun of games, but want to advance quickly through them to save time.


If you’re a developer, keep these findings in mind as you incorporate virtual goods into your games. Try to ask yourself: What sorts of virtual goods are interesting to men? How could you get more women to buy virtual goods? Would buying a ‘Justin Bieber haircut’ be that interesting to a 30 year-old guy? What products are most appealing to Latinos? Learn the demographics of the platform you’re building for, and keep this in mind as you create your games.

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