More than 100 million Americans prefer free-to-play games

We’ve heard a lot of talk lately around these parts that more and more established game developers are going the way of the free-to-play model. Well it turns out there’s a very good reason for that. A recent study conducted by PlaySpan, in conjunction with Frank N. Magid Associations has shown that an astounding 77% of gamers (and 110 million Americans) spend more time playing free-to-play games than pay-to-play games. The December 2012 study surveyed current gamers between the ages of 13-54, where it was deemed that 52% of these gamers were men and 48% were women.

PlaySpan also unearthed some interesting numbers in regards to age and gender demographics of gamers. While the study revealed that 82% of women preferred the free-to-play model over 72% of men, it also showed that men were three times more likely to make in-app purchases than women, with an average of $30.59 per month spent on free-to-play games. However, despite these figures, men were also more likely to play games on dedicated consoles, while women mostly preferred gaming on smartphones and tablets. Another interesting revelation is that 18-24 year-old women tend to outspend men on pay-to-play games by an average $10 margin.

According to the same survey, the top genres played include (in order) strategy, arcade games, and games on a smartphone or tablet; while games on social networking sites, simulation games, and music/rhythm games are bringing up the rear. Men have been shown to spend twice as much time playing RPG, action, and sports genres than women, while women are three times more likely to play games on social networking sites.

So what do we do with all of this new information? Andre Machicao, head of PlaySpan has a few choice words on what this could mean for the future of gaming: “Developers are faced with more platform choices and monetization channels than ever before, and these survey results offer a clear view into where developers should be placing their bets to broaden their audience.” Will we start to see the free-to-play model venture more into traditional home gaming consoles? After all, Sony’s recently announced PlayStation 4, which caters to the independent developer, plans to offer full game trials of everything in their catalog at no initial cost to the user. But perhaps most shockingly were the PlaySpan results that smartphones are now on equal ground with home consoles as the preferred gaming platform of choice.

So what do your personal statistics look like for free-to-play games? How much have you spent on free-to-play titles in the last month?

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