Eric Johnson

Recent Posts by Eric Johnson

Surprise, Surprise? A Lot of People (Especially Women) Really Like Free-to-Play Games.

freeWith this year’s Game Developers Conference around the corner, it’s open season for industry-commissioned studies of who’s playing what and why. Just this morning, we learned that having a better phone screen makes gamers more likely to drop money on in-app purchases.

Now a new demographics report is out from Frank N. Magid Associates that says a few things of interest: A lot of Americans play games (duh), a lot of them play games on smartphones, women are leading the console-to-smartphone shift and free-to-play games are hogging the spotlight away from traditional pay-to-play games.

None of these facts may seem like earth-shattering revelations to those of you who play a lot of games and may have had a small role in effecting these changes. But Magid VP of Research Bob Crawford, who organized the survey of gamers in December 2012, said they’re newer than you may realize.

“This wasn’t a topic of discussion even last year [at GDC],” Crawford said.

But you can bet this year will be different. The schedule for next week’s conference includes some 24 sessions solely about smartphone and tablet games, and 27 sessions about the design and business of free to play. The latter group is part of an entirely new segment of the conference created for this year.

And while the popular perception of gamers may still skew toward young men, the industry seems to be paying more and more attention to the importance of women in all the growing categories of smartphone, tablet and social gaming: Five of the planned GDC “advocacy” sessions this year are centered on gender issues.

A few quick takeaways from the Magid study, which was commissioned by Visa-owned digital payments platform PlaySpan:

  • Thanks to smartphones, about 80 percent of those surveyed play games.
  • When asked to pick their preferred gaming platform, 35 percent of respondents picked consoles vs. 34 percent for smartphones and 11 percent for tablets.
  • However, broken out by gender, that same question found that men strongly prefer consoles, while women strongly prefer smartphones.
  • The study estimates that 110 million people are playing more free-to-play games than they were a year ago, while only 13 million people are playing more pay-to-play games.
  • Men spend nearly three times more than women do on the virtual goods found within free-to-play games.

This dead-simple chart communicates the most important factoid here:

Screen shot 2013-03-21 at 11.00.13 AM

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