So-called micro-transactions generated from the sale of virtual games on mobile devices are generating macro-revenues, according to a survey released Wednesday from media research firm Frank Magid Associates Inc.
One out of four tablet users surveyed spent money on games last year, with an average outlay of $62 each. Those who played games downloaded about 20 titles each.
That's substantially more than smartphone gamers, who downloaded about 10 games on average and spent $25 each in 2011, according to the research firm, which canvassed 2,540 people through an online survey.
Games tend to do better on tablets than on smartphones. They rank as the second most popular activity on tablets after Internet access, but weigh in at sixth on smartphones.
About two-thirds of the games downloaded on a tablet were nominally free, according to the survey results. But many of those games are restricted to a small number of levels or very rudimentary features. To unlock additional content, players must pay anywhere from 99 cents to $19.99.
Even at 99-cent increments, the transactions add up. Just under 24% of respondents who paid for tablet games reported spending more than $50 last year, while 8% reported spending more than $150. That type of spending competes with console game price tags, which cost anywhere from $40 to $60 a pop.
The Magid survey was sponsored by PlayFirst, creator of "Diner Dash" and other downloadable time-management games. While the results appear to cast PlayFirst's mobile games market in a rosy light, it does jibe with other surveys suggesting that overall spending on mobile games has grown substantially since June 2007, when Apple launched its first iPhone.
Two weeks ago, Information Solutions Group released a survey showing that 44% of adults surveyed had played at least one game on a tablet or cellphone in the last month, up from 29% in 2011. In addition, 46% of all video game time this year was spent on a mobile device, with gaming on consoles trailing at 18% of time spent playing.
The ISG survey, incidentally, was sponsored by PopCap Games, a division of Electronic Arts Inc. Natch!