PlaySpan, a Visa company (NYSE: V) and leader in monetization solutions for digital media, online games and social networks, today announced results from its new study of virtual goods purchasing trends. Overall, the study showed more than $2.3 billion of virtual goods 1 were purchased in 2011 in the U.S., with gamers spending an average of $64 each over the course of the year. The dollar amount per individual was up 28 percent over 2009.

According to the study, one in four consumers purchased a virtual good in 2011, a 100 percent increase over 2009. Among U.S. gamers, 35 percent have purchased a virtual good, which is up approximately 50% over 2010. Not surprisingly, given well-established historical buying patterns, U.S. male gamers were almost twice as likely as female gamers to purchase these virtual items.

“Consumer acceptance of virtual goods represents a huge growth opportunity, not just for game publishers, but for all digital content companies,” said Karl Mehta, founder of PlaySpan. “We believe we will continue to see a positive growth trend in games and that virtual goods will expand across multiple industries, such as music, movies, social gifting, and rewards, to name just a few. Data we’ve uncovered in our study should help producers and distributors of all digital content fine tune their strategies for reaching audiences across some of today’s most commonly used platforms.”

Frank N. Magid Associates conducted the online PlaySpan survey of virtual goods trends in early January of 2012—the data reflects consumer behavior in 2011. Over 600 qualified individuals completed the questionnaire.

Selected findings from the 2011 survey

Young males still dominate the business

Nearly 50 percent of males 24 and under said they bought a virtual good in 2011. By contrast, only 15 percent of females in that same age group made the same claim. Surprisingly, females between the ages of 35 and 44 show the largest participation among women in the purchase of virtual goods—23 percent.

Below is a breakdown of U.S. consumers’ virtual goods purchasing behavior in 2011 based on age and gender.

Age     Male     Female
13-17     50 percent     15 percent
18-24     49 percent     14 percent
25-34     39 percent     17 percent
35-44     26 percent     23 percent
45-54     10 percent     15 percent

Full value from the game drives investment in virtual goods

Buying motivations among gamers who have bought a virtual good are varied; but the leading reasons have to do with enhancement of, enjoyment of, and performance in the game experience. Responses are below:
Reason for purchase     Percent who bought
To be able to do more     59 percent
To get a better experience playing     49 percent
To reach an advanced level or state     35 percent
To decorate or develop my avatar or to express myself     32 percent
To improve my skills     27 percent
To beat my friends     17 percent
To continue progressing or have more fun     16 percent
To achieve a common goal with a friend     14 percent
To show off a brand or think I like in real life     10 percent

Virtual goods show growth potential

Among U.S. gamers who have not purchased a virtual good, 70 percent show a willingness to do so, which could indicate opportunity for continued growth in the sector. Similarly, the study indicated that more than 1 out of 4 gamers (26 percent) purchased virtual goods as a gift, leaving an untapped market of nearly 3 out 4 gamers (74 percent).

Connected consoles fuel virtual goods purchases

Among males and females who purchase virtual goods, the leading source is through a connected console. But other sources are closing the gap (multiple answers allowed, therefore percentages do not sum to 100).
Source of purchase     Percent who bought
Connected console (e.g., Xboxlive or PlayStation Store)     48 percent
Directly within a game application     42 percent
Prepaid Game Cards at retail stores     40 percent
Online store (not a game publisher)     16 percent
Game publisher’s website (outside the game application)     13 percent

“Twice as many people are buying virtual goods in the U.S. today compared to 2009 and spending 28% more money,” said Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors, a unit of Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc. “Purchasing virtual goods is truly becoming a mainstream activity as far as consumer entertainment behaviors are concerned.”

PlaySpan and Frank N. Magid Associates will be presenting the complete findings from its virtual goods trends report at The Game Developers Conference on March 7, 2012 between 5:00pm and 6:00pm in room 2011, West Hall on the 2 nd Floor.

To set up an interview with PlaySpan or Magid at GDC, please visit booth #932 or contact

About PlaySpan Inc.

PlaySpan, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) provides content providers a trusted monetization platform for safe, convenient and user-friendly in-app purchases of virtual goods, accepting over 85 payment methods in 180 countries. UltimatePay includes PlaySpan's Ultimate Game Card, the #1 selling multi-game pre-paid card, available in more than 50,000 retail locations across North America.

About Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc.

Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc. is a leading media and entertainment research-based strategy firm which has been studying the evolving media landscape and its impact on consumer behavior for 54 years. Magid has extensive cable and broadcast television, online video, and mobile video practices, and works on content and marketing strategies with leading broadcast and cable networks, MSOs, television manufacturers, video content providers, mobile device manufacturers and wireless carriers. For more information, please visit Magid's website at

1 The term “virtual good” includes virtual currency (“money” gamers purchase to buy goods within a game) and “virtual items”(including advanced weapons, maps, etc. that add to a game experience).

Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available:

Copyright Business Wire 2010

More from Press Releases

NFL Pushes for Regulation Following Supreme Court's Sports Gambling Ruling

NFL Pushes for Regulation Following Supreme Court's Sports Gambling Ruling

21st Century Fox Scoops Up Local News Stations

21st Century Fox Scoops Up Local News Stations

Walmart CEO: 'We Are Transforming Globally' With Flipkart

Walmart CEO: 'We Are Transforming Globally' With Flipkart

Three-Part FREE Webinar Series

Three-Part FREE Webinar Series

March 24 Full-Day Course Offering: Professional Approach to Trading SPX

March 24 Full-Day Course Offering: Professional Approach to Trading SPX