CivicScience | Mobile Gaming Revenue Comes to Life — Consumer Insights on the In-App Spenders


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Mobile Gaming Revenue Comes to Life — Consumer Insights on the In-App Spenders

/ By CivicScience

Video game market research firm Newzoo expects year-over-year mobile game revenue in North America to grow 53%, and this year, they predict revenue will reach over $7 billion and eclipse console video game sales. That’s a lot of Candy Crush purchases. So what can we learn about the consumers who pay while playing these mobile games?

During the summer of 2015, CivicScience used our polling network to ask over 5,700 U.S. adults about their average monthly spending on in-game purchases for games played on their mobile devices (smartphones, tablet computers). What we found is that over half of U.S. adults don’t play any games on such devices (57%). Another 31% play games on these devices, but never spend money on in-game purchases; we’ll refer to these game players as “non-spenders.” That leaves the remaining 12% who say they do spend on mobile in-game purchases, which will be the focus of this report.


We broke the poll answer choices out with a good degree of spending level granularity, based on a scale provided by our partner The NPD Group. Of those in-game spenders, 39% of them only spend less than $1 per month on average. Another 34% spend modestly, from $1 to $5 per month. The other 27% spend $5 or more on in-game purchases per month.

Because the sample size within each spend level ‘bucket’ was fairly small (too small for statistically meaningful analysis at this stage), we grouped all in-game spenders together and compared them to the average respondent across a number of criteria where notable differences were identified by our consumer insights platform the InsightStore™.

Here’s a summary persona of these in-game spenders that we believe emerges from the consumer insight findings:

The mobile in-game spender is more likely to be an older Millennial (age 25-34), and slightly more likely to be a parent. They are frequent users of social media sites. Their smartphone of choice tends to be the Apple iPhone. They have the means and inclination to spend more in general: They are more likely to have an annual household income of $100K+ and slightly more likely to be currently employed. They tend to be more optimistic about their financial future, are more likely to be spendthrifts who have difficulty controlling their spending, and even have spending involvement where they work. Overall, they prefer to shop for convenience, yet also like to talk about new brands and technology. They are a bit more carefree in their thinking about things like their own healthcare, online privacy, and federal government issues like the deficit and illegal immigration. Yet as whole, they are somewhat more likely to own a gun.

Let’s delve into the detailed findings from the CivicScience InsightStore™ behind that narrative.


Mobile in-game spenders are 39% more likely to be aged 25-34. Mobile game players who are not spenders are 58% more likely to be 18 to 25, which will be a proxy for lower income levels and therefore, less money to spend in general. Those who don’t play games on mobile devices are 39% more likely to be 55 years or older (probably no big surprise).


Other Demographics:

We found no notable differences between the genders, other than that there’s a very slightly higher percentage of women among mobile in-game spenders and non-spenders when compared to U.S. Census distribution. Mobile in-game spenders are 26% more likely to be parents. Both mobile in-game non-spenders and spenders are slightly more likely (+15% and +12% respectively) to be currently employed, some of which can be explained by the age distribution and also having income to own a smartphone.

Mobile in-game spenders are 21% more likely to have an annual household income of over $100,000, which likely provides them the luxury to make purchases on mobile video game features, “lives,” and other boosts.

Smartphone Ownership:

Mobile in-game spenders are 54% more likely to own an Apple iPhone. Non-spenders are more likely to own any kind of smart phone and are pretty evenly distributed in the type of phone they own (iPhone, Samsung, or other device choices all fare about equally across non-spenders).

Social Media Use:

A key marketing strategy for many of these games is to share your results on social media and to invite your social media ‘friends’ to play too – where recruitment of more players can lead to credits or other game benefits.

Let’s take a look at how both mobile in-game spenders and non-spenders have higher Facebook usage than non-gamers:


Aside from Facebook, we found:

  • Mobile in-game spenders are 63% more likely than average to be daily YouTube visitors. Non-spenders also by and large visit YouTube, but less regularly overall.
  • The spenders are 90% more likely to visit Pinterest on a daily basis.
  • They are 81% more likely to use Twitter daily and 66% more likely to use it weekly.

Clearly, the social media integration of mobile gaming is spot-on with the behaviors of these consumers.


Other Key Attributes Found:

We also used the InsightStore™ to see how the group of mobile in-game spenders compare to everyone else across a wide range of lifestyle, shopping, tech and media consumption, and sentiment questions in our core library. Here were some of the top discoveries in terms of statistical significance:

  • Spenders are 32% more likely to expect their personal financial situation to get better in the next six months.
  • Spenders are 37% more likely to be on the “spendthrift” side of the spending practice spectrum, which means they admit to having more difficulty controlling their spending.
  • Spenders are 42% more likely to be involved in purchasing decisions at their company or organization.
  • Spenders are 37% more likely to like telling others about new brands or technology.
  • Spenders are 48% more likely to purchase food or beverages at convenience stores at least once per week.
  • Spenders are 41% more likely to say it’s not at all important to shop at locally owned establishments.
  • Spenders are 77% more likely to go to the movies about once a month or more.
  • Even though most spenders are actively managing their healthcare (researching info + seeing doc when needed), they are also 38% more likely to also self-diagnose/self-treat.
  • Spenders are 28% more likely to own a gun.
  • Spenders are 36% more likely to be not at all concerned about consumer privacy.
  • Spenders are slightly less likely to be overly concerned about the U.S. federal deficit.
  • Spenders are 46% more likely to be not at all concerned about illegal immigration in the U.S.


In Summary

Mobile game producers like Zynga and Supercell have proven it can be a lucrative model to offer “freemium” games – meaning the game itself may be free to install, but it will offer numerous ways to “purchase” extended or enhanced game play, such as additional lives, more features, better virtual goods, unlocking new levels of play, and more. The games also do a great job of greasing the wheels for such purchases; in just a few clicks, you’ve restocked your lives and received an in-game message celebrating your purchase. With 12% of U.S. adults making such in-game buys on their mobile devices, this clearly represents a sizable consumer base.

Those gravitating towards such spend are more likely to be in a fairly comfortable economic position themselves, and seem to have a more optimistic view of the world. Rather than viewing such in-game purchases as frivolous, they are more likely to equate them to entertainment spend – similar to their higher-than-average rate of frequenting movie theaters. These characteristics certainly make them attractive to mobile game producers.


About the CivicScience Methodology:
CivicScience collects real-time consumer research data via polling applications that run on hundreds of U.S. publisher websites, cycling through thousands of active questions on any given day. Respondents voluntarily opt-in their answers with no incentives, compensation or coercion — they answer for fun and are kept anonymous, allowing for greatly reduce bias and higher levels of engagement. The 5,762 respondents for this report were weighted for the U.S. Census, 18 years and older, and data were collected from June 30, 2015 to August 24, 2015. CivicScience builds deep, timely psychographic profiles of these respondents with each question they answer over time, providing valuable consumer sentiment and behavior insight data to the decision makers who care. The CivicScience methodology has been scientifically validated by a team of academic leaders and by independent research firms. CivicScience currently has millions of anonymous consumer profiles stored, growing daily.

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