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Study suggests players spend faster on mobile, bigger on web

The latest player engagement study from Playnomics suggests that social games on the web still rely on whales for long-term profits, while social games on mobile are making a lot more money up front.

Alex Wawro

December 19, 2013

3 Min Read

The latest quarterly player engagement study from analytics firm Playnomics suggests that while social games for mobile devices tend to generate revenue from individual players much faster and more equally, social games on the web tend to generate more revenue from a much smaller portion of their playerbase -- much closer to the typical "whale" scenario. The study encompassed over 60 million players worldwide, but the segments covering monetization sampled 50,000 web players and 20,000 mobile players, with equal numbers of paying and non-paying players in each group. The goal was to study these players during the first six months of their time with a given game in order to better predict the spending patterns across platforms. The study found that the top 20 percent of players who spent money on non-mobile games in the first 180 days of play accounted for nearly $488,000, or roughly 87 percent of the total spend on in-app purchases for those games. By comparison, the top 20 percent of players who spent money in mobile games during the same time period accounted for roughly $13,000, 56 percent of the total spend on IAP for those games. That information suggests that "whales" -- players who choose to spend large amounts of real money on IAPs -- are more common and more valuable to web-based games as compared to mobile. However, the study also suggests that players who are willing to spend money on IAP in a mobile game do so much faster than those who are willing to spend money on IAP in a web game. Players who went for IAP on a mobile game during the study spent an average of 63.4 percent of their total investment in the game on the very first day of play. By comparison, people playing web games spent an average of just 10.35 percent of their total spend on IAP in their first day of play. Thus, it seems likely that people who get invested in social games on mobile devices -- like, say, Knights & Dragons -- tend to spend a lot more up front and lose interest in those games quicker than people who get invested in web-based social games. It might also indicate that the web games surveyed sported IAP models predicated on small amounts of money spent over time -- a few dollars here or there for more energy or in-game currency, for example -- while the mobile games might have allowed for more or bigger purchases up front: experience boosts, unlockable content, or the like. Based on the results of the study, Playnomics suggests that non-mobile social games have a sort of 3-play weekly threshold for monetization: That is, the study predicted -- with 74 percent accuracy -- that if the players surveyed did not play a given web-based social game three or more times within seven days of encountering it, they would not go on to spend money on it. Conversely, those who played a social game on the web three or more times in their first seven days with it would spend money on IAP. Not surprisingly, if a game isn't good enough to hook players within the first week, it's probably not good enough to convince them to open their wallets.

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