Though only 10 percent of social game players actually spend money on Facebook titles, some of those users are social gaming "whales" who spend $25 or more per month to buy virtual goods, according to a new study.
An independent report from Inside Virtual Goods, "Spending and Usage Patterns of the Social Gaming Audience"
, surveyed more than 20,000 social gamers on Facebook "from around the world and across the demographic spectrum".
Despite the negative connotations of the "whale" nickname, it's a category of users that most publishers and developers likely appreciate, as the report points out that players spending $25 or more are generating the most revenue for those companies.
"It’s clear that people either spend a lot of money or spend nothing," said Justin Smith, founder of Inside Network and co-author of the report, in an interview
Notably, the study showed that of the nearly 2,000 surveyed, 84 unique respondents said they spent more than $25 on only one game. 15 unique respondents said they spent more than $25 on two Facebook titles, and six said they spent over that amount on three social games.
Some of Facebook's whales are spending a lot more than $25 -- virtual payments firm Social Gold recently revealed
that some of the top spenders it's tracking have purchased well over $10,000 worth virtual currency and goods, with one user in Saudi Arabia parting with as much as $25,540.
Inside Virtual Goods' study also provided insight on who social gamers are playing with and how often they play different titles on Facebook. The survey found that 55.5 percent of respondents play with friends, 9.6 percent with co-workers, 15.4 percent with classmates, and 19.5 percent with strangers.
As for frequency of play, 61.8 percent of social gamers said they play several times a day, 28.4 percent said at least once per day, and 6.6 percent said several times a week. The following chart from the study show how often respondents who played a particular popular Facebook game spent time on that title:
"If 2009 is remembered as the year that casual gaming stormed social platforms, 2010 is quickly becoming the year that the industry started to mature," added Smith.