Consumers purchased more than $2.3 billion in virtual goods from online games, digital media, and social networks in the U.S. last year -- up from $1.8 billion in 2009 -- according to a study from research firm Frank N. Magid Associates.
The new study found that one in four U.S. consumers (between the ages of 15 and 24) purchased a virtual good in 2011, double the percentage that Magid recorded when it last conducted its survey for the market in 2009.
"Purchasing virtual goods is truly becoming a mainstream activity as far as consumer entertainment behaviors are concerned," says Magid Advisors president Mike Vorhaus. His company was commissioned to conduct the survey by virtual goods monetization firm and Visa subsidiary PlaySpan.
Among those polled, gamers were the most receptive to purchasing virtual goods, as 35 percent of them bought a virtual good in 2011, which is up by around 50 percent compared to 2010. Those gamers spent an average of $64 on virtual goods last year, 28 percent more than they spent in 2009.
Magid, which polled more than 600 individuals for its survey last month, also found that males were more likely to buy virtual goods than females last year -- for males under 24, nearly half purchased virtual goods in 2011, compared to around 15 percent for females in the same age group.
Survey participants cited wanting "to be able to do more," "to get a better experience playing," "to reach an advanced level or state," and "to decorate or develop my avatar or to express myself" as their most common reasons for buying virtual goods last year.