Research firm Frank N. Magid Associates and in-game commerce platform PlaySpan report that 13 percent of the North American population (12 to 64 years) with internet access purchase digital goods, and that those consumers spent an average of $99 on those items in 2010 -- a 14 percent increase over the average of $87 spent in the previous year.
In their second annual survey on "Virtual Goods Market Penetration and Growth in North America," the two firms found that the median of digital goods purchases grew 67 percent from $30 in 2009 to $50 in the current year. More than one-fifth, or 21 percent, of digital goods buyers said they intend to purchase more in the next 12 months, too.
iPhone owners made up the highest concentration of consumers purchasing digital goods with 43 percent of them buying apps, games, and more in 2010, compared to 28 percent last year. Virtual worlds users came in second place as 41 percent of regular visitors have bought a virtual item. Thirty-three percent of handheld gamers and 32 percent of mobile gamers said they spent money on digital goods.
According to Magid Associates, 37 percent of consumers bought virtual goods from a free, web-based game, 29 percent bought from a free multiplayer PC game, 21 percent bought from a connected console marketplace (e.g. XBLA, PSN), 18 percent bought digital goods from a subscription-based multiplayer game like World of Warcraft, and 11 percent bought from a virtual world.
The firm also says that 31 percent purchased non-game related digital goods from a social networking site, and 29 percent spent money on a social game. Of the survey participants who said they purchased digital goods, 16 percent said they have used Facebook Credits, the social network's universal virtual currency system (currently in beta).
The online survey, which collected answers from 2,412 consumers between May 7-12, said that 57 percent of gamers who bought virtual goods purchased them in a game, while 38 percent acquired them on an official site outside of the virtual world or game. Sixteen percent said they bought their digital goods from an e-commerce site like PlaySpan, and 8 percent arranged an exchange with another player.
"There’s been a substantial increase in the number of consumers buying digital goods and an upward trend of players spending more on average than in the previous year," says Magid Advisors president Mike Vorhaus.
He adds, "With the proliferation of smartphone users, and players becoming more comfortable paying for items within virtual worlds and social networks, Magid believes there is a huge opportunity for developers and publishers to capitalize on this growing multi-billion dollar industry, especially as virtual credits and pre-paid payment options become more widely accepted."