PlaySpan, a subsidiary of Visa whose UltimatePay product provides global in-app payments for Facebook Credits and other gaming platforms, released a demographic breakdown of U.S. gamers who purchase virtual goods. The study finds that gamers are beginning to purchase more virtual content with real money, rather than credits given for free by advertisers. According to PlaySpan, nearly 31% of the gamer population has purchased virtual content with real money, and of those, 57% do it at least once a month.Today,
But their profile of the average U.S. gamer varies noticeably from what the Entertainment Software Association found in their 2011 report. The two studies have markedly different measurements of the age and gender breakdown of U.S. gamers.
The ESA study, which has been frequently cited in the media, found that the average age of U.S. gamers was 37, 58% of gamers are male, and 42% are female. But the PlaySpan report found an average age of 25.3, that 72% of gamers are male, and did not include the percentage of respondents who identified as female. Neither survey reported an "other" or non-identifying category.
The PlaySpan and ESA studies had sample sizes of 1,006 and "almost 1,200" respectively. The former was conducted by VGMarket, which concentrates on the video game industry, and the latter by Ipsos MediaCT, a general media, content, and technology research firm. It's not obvious why the two would find such noticeable differences in the average U.S. gamer population. The discrepancy prevents us from drawing any conclusions about spending on virtual currency yet.
Update 8/5, 9:00 a.m.: Commenting on the discrepancy, Michael Gluck, president of VGMarket, says, "In order to qualify for our study, respondents must have purchased at least one virtual good in the last 12 months. This study is all about understanding the average virtual goods buyer, not the average gamer in general. Those who did not purchase virtual goods were excluded from the study." That's not apparent from VGMarket's slides, though. The data in dispute are under the header "US General Gamer Population" (slide 1), and 8% of respondents say they did not purchase virtual goods in the last 12 months (slide 5).
When asked to clarify in light of the seeming contradiction, Gluck repeated his position. PlaySpan's data seem less reliable in light of this conflict.