What Are Mobile Gamers Spending Money On? A Lot of Nothing.

Over the past year, mobile games have shifted aggressively to the free-to-play model.

Developers have seen value in giving away their games to gain a larger audience and then charging players for items in the game. Now we are gaining some insight as to what users are willing to spend money on — turns out, it’s a whole lot of nothing.

Players are buying things that don’t even exist, including virtual armor, crops, fertilizer, energy beans, food or weapons. While it’s a small percentage of users who ever buy anything, the ones who do are paying, on average, $14 per transaction.

The results were published this morning in a blog post by Flurry, which sifted through a year’s worth of purchases on iOS and Android games, which are played by an average of more than two million people a day. Flurry is able to report on these aggregate numbers because thousands of developers use its tools to collect data within their individual applications.

Everything that users will pay for in the game are considered virtual items, but even more telling is that they are willing to purchase items that don’t last very long.

These items are called consumables and consist of things that become depleted when used, such as energy, fertilizer, etc. Typically, these items help you advance through the game faster, as opposed to durable items, such as armor that helps you defend yourself in a battle or new buildings that stick around and may help you earn additional revenue.

Flurry said it found that more than two-thirds — or about 68 percent — of purchases are for consumable items, or the disposable items, and that only 30 percent of purchases are on durable items. The least popular category is on personalization items, such as trees, park benches and other items that are purely decorative. Only two percent of purchases fell into that bucket.

In conclusion, Flurry GM of Games Jeferson Valadares writes that the games with the best return on investment are the ones that are designed with consumable items in mind.

Flurry estimates that total iOS and Android game revenue will surpass $1 billion this year.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik