A new survey of nearly 2,000 Web users suggests that 12 percent of Americans -- more than one in 10 -- have purchased virtual goods this year, with most of those goods being purchased by social network gamers, virtual world users, and iPhone owners.
The study, undertaken by analyst firm Frank N. Magid Associates, was commissioned by PlaySpan, a virtual currency provider, which obviously has a vested interest in the results being awesome.
Nevertheless, the study was less a testament to the idea that virtual goods are the greatest things since tattooed eyebrows, and more an analysis of who is buying virtual goods and from where.
According to a report on GigaOm, the demographics break down as follows:
- Of the 12 percent buying, 15 percent were male aged 12-24
- Another 15 percent were female aged 35-44
- Men are buying weapons for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs)
- Women are buying Flowers on Facebook (aww...)
- The largest ethnic group buying virtual goods is Asian-Americans (16 percent)
According to the report, the global value of microtransactions is supposed to reach $1.8 billion for 2009, with $200 million to $250 million coming from the U.S.
Micropayments, whether for virtual goods or digital content, may very well help define the future of business on the Web. But with 75 percent of the American population using the Internet, this alleged 12 percent will not necessarily turn virtual goods into a booming enterprise. Further, even if that 12 percent is accurate, said buyers could have just purchased one virtual good at some point this year, which could very well mean it was a one-off thing (I'll try anything once!) -- not a sustainable business model.
Now, if only Twitter started selling virtual mirrors for its merry band of Narcissists, we might be in business for real.
Just a thought.
— Nicole Ferraro, Site Editor, Internet Evolution