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Why Do Mobile Gamers Spend Money on In Game Currencies?

Published on 29 January 14
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In the casual game development industry, and even now in more hardcore and midcore game circles, the concept of microtransactions has been billed as the way forward when it comes to making money from your game. With so many free games available for mobile devices, this is especially true of mobile and tablet games. It is hard to get people to pay for your game outright, so really your options are to have an ad supported game, or to design an in game economy and charge people when they want virtual currency or in game power ups.
Casual games have been doing this for some time, which is why even games that now seem pretty old fashioned concepts like Farmville all have their own 'cash' or 'bucks' style system. Now major games developers like EA have started getting in on the idea, and not just with casual games but with midcore projects like The Sims Freeplay, it is easy to see why there is so much buzz around games with in app purchases or similar microtransaction methods being something we will be seeing more and more of in future.
So, while it makes complete sense why developers would want to do this, despite the fact that working out an in game economy adds quite a lot of complexity to your game design, one question remains - why are the gamers out there so willing to swap their hard earned 'real life' money for money they can spend on virtual products that only exist within a game? This question is particularly pertinent when you consider in game currencies like the chips in Zynga Poker. If a gamer wants to spend real money on playing poker on their mobile device, wouldn't it make more sense to play something like Euro Palace Mobile Casino where they can win real money too, rather than only winning more chips?
In actual fact, the majority of players don't spend much, if any money on in game currencies, and will instead put up with things like not having the best in game accessories or having to wait 24 hours for something in the game to finish growing or building before they can play with it. What there are, however, are the 1-2% of gamers known as 'whales', who will plough a lot of real money into your game, perhaps because they are really addicted to it, or because money is less important to them than time and a good gaming experience. Much as people will play things like pinball machines, which don't pay out, there is a certain amount the average person is willing to lay out on gaming entertainment, and for some that amount is high!
In the casual game development industry, and even now in more hardcore and midcore game circles, the concept of microtransactions has been billed as the way forward when it comes to making money from your game. With so many free games available for mobile devices, this is especially true of mobile and tablet games. It is hard to get people to pay for your game outright, so really your options are to have an ad supported game, or to design an in game economy and charge people when they want virtual currency or in game power ups.

Casual games have been doing this for some time, which is why even games that now seem pretty old fashioned concepts like Farmville all have their own 'cash' or 'bucks' style system. Now major games developers like EA have started getting in on the idea, and not just with casual games but with midcore projects like The Sims Freeplay, it is easy to see why there is so much buzz around games with in app purchases or similar microtransaction methods being something we will be seeing more and more of in future.

So, while it makes complete sense why developers would want to do this, despite the fact that working out an in game economy adds quite a lot of complexity to your game design, one question remains - why are the gamers out there so willing to swap their hard earned 'real life' money for money they can spend on virtual products that only exist within a game? This question is particularly pertinent when you consider in game currencies like the chips in Zynga Poker. If a gamer wants to spend real money on playing poker on their mobile device, wouldn't it make more sense to play something like Euro Palace Mobile Casino where they can win real money too, rather than only winning more chips?

In actual fact, the majority of players don't spend much, if any money on in game currencies, and will instead put up with things like not having the best in game accessories or having to wait 24 hours for something in the game to finish growing or building before they can play with it. What there are, however, are the 1-2% of gamers known as 'whales', who will plough a lot of real money into your game, perhaps because they are really addicted to it, or because money is less important to them than time and a good gaming experience. Much as people will play things like pinball machines, which don't pay out, there is a certain amount the average person is willing to lay out on gaming entertainment, and for some that amount is high!

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