Eric Johnson

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Mobile Gamers With Better Phone Screens Spend More on In-App Purchases

Galaxy_retinaMobile game developers looking to climb the “Top Grossing” charts, take heed: The better your players’ phone screens are, the more they’re likely to spend on in-app purchases.

At least that’s the conclusion of a new study run by mobile games studio Pocket Gems. The study compared different generations of iPhones, iPads and Android phones against how much their owners were buying within individual games’ stores. It found that higher-resolution screens correlated with more money spent in games for both phone operating systems, but not for the iPads.

“Android users with the highest resolution devices are nearly 10 times more likely to make in-app purchases than users with lower resolution devices,” Pocket Gems said in a press release. “For iPhones, the iPhone 5 monetizes nearly 4 times that of the older generation iPhone 3GS.”

Contrasting old and new iPads, however, showed no correlation between screens and monetization.

PocketGems CEO Ben Liu said screen resolution is “a good proxy” for a device’s processor power and memory, so it’s safe to assume that phones with better screens are offering a better user experience all around. However, he said, phones and tablets showed different results in the study because of differences in their upgrade cycles.

To wit: People who have the money to buy a new phone (which will probably have a better screen than their two-year-old device) as soon as it makes economic sense to do so are more likely to have disposable income to spend on virtual goods. However, Wi-Fi-only tablets not tied to a two-year data contract don’t encourage their users to refresh as quickly, so owners of the original iPad from 2010 seem to be buying nearly as much as their newer-iPad-owning counterparts.

(One interesting side note: The original iPad and the iPad mini, both of which lack a high-resolution Retina display, monetized better than the latest iPad, even though the latter has a much better screen).

So, why the huge gap between Android owners and iPhone owners? Liu said it’s because the Android OS spans all types of phones, from low-end to high-end, while Apple is more homogeneously situated in the high end (for now, at least).

The takeaway for game devs: If you have a choice when making games and, later, fixing problems, your time may be better spent on players with pricier devices.

PocketGems’ infographic showing the trends is below:


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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”