When the word “gaming” comes up, often the first thought that comes to mind is that of a person sitting in front of a TV with a console controller in their hands. And usually, this imagined person is male. In CivicScience’s data over the past three months, 61% of people who said they play video games daily or weekly are male.

But in the world of mobile gaming, things are different. Very different. 

In a CivicScience study of more than 1,900 respondents in July, women and teen girls were more likely to spend — and spend big — on mobile games than men and teen boys. This applies both in the App Store / Google Play and inside the apps. First, the top-line findings (among smartphone / tablet users only):

When it came to buying new apps, men were more likely to either not spend anything on new apps or to be modest spenders in a given month ($1 to $3), while women were more likely to spend a bit more.

But after the apps are downloaded, it starts to get really interesting. First off, women were at least as likely as men to say they played mobile games in the first place. Then, among mobile gamers, the in-game spenders were mostly women. In fact, in the CivicScience survey, women accounted for about four out of five people who said they spend $5 or more per month on in-game purchases.

Gen Z Powers the Mobile Gaming World

When it comes to buying apps from the App Store / Google Play, at least 80% of everyone older than 25 is staunchly opposed to shelling out any money in a given month. 

The under-25 crowd? Not so much:

In other words, Gen Z respondents were about twice as likely as members of any other generation to spend money on apps in a given month. 

Among mobile gamers, Gen Z respondents were the most willing to spend larger sums on in-app purchases, while more moderate in-game spending ($5 or less / month) was spread fairly evenly among age groups. Interestingly, Millennials turned out to be the generation least likely by far to spend big on in-app purchases. A big in-game spender was nearly six times more likely to be a Gen X-er than they were to be a Millennial.

Income notably didn’t play too large of a role in App Store decision-making, though overall app purchasing did tend to increase incrementally alongside household income. People living in firmly middle-class households ($50K-$100K / year) made up a strong majority (67%) of those likely to spend more than $5 per month on in-app purchases.

It’s an Adrenaline Rush

So what kinds of mobile games do the biggest in-app spenders like to play? In short, they like action games. A lot. 

They don’t particularly seek out strategy, competitive play, cooperative play, or in-game rewards systems. At least, there were no substantial differences between spenders and non-spenders when it came to these aspects of gaming. “Action” was the only gaming element that truly stood out for spenders.

Buying something mid-game to improve one’s performance might seem like an impulsive decision to some. Indeed, when we looked at mobile game spenders’ impulsivity, a clear trend emerged. 

For reference, among the general population, about 40% say they like to make and stick with plans. 

Interestingly, the trend of relative impulsivity among in-game spenders did not continue when looking at those who spend more on app purchases in the App Store / Google Play. Perhaps these purchasing decisions are more measured. 

Perhaps understandably, this population (frequent app buyers) seems to be more comfortable with buying and adopting new technologies than those who use free apps only.

People who were willing to pay to download apps were five times as likely to pay for in-app purchases as well. 

Only about one in twenty people who never spend money in the App Store / Google Play will go on to spend money inside the free apps they download. Meanwhile, three in ten of those who spend money to download apps will go on to spend money inside the apps themselves. 

Overall, willingness to spend money on apps — both on downloading new apps and on in-game purchases — trends young and female. However, Millennials seem particularly stingy about in-game purchases, and Gen Z blows away every other demographic when it comes to spending real cash on in-game power-ups.