PlayFirst Study Confirms What Most Mobile Gamers Already Know: iPad is King

The results of a recent study commissioned by PlayFirst and performed by Magid Media came as no surprise: more people are playing games on iPad than any other mobile device. The poll surveyed 2,540 people between 8 and 64 years old, and the demographics were matched to the recent US census. The data was gathered between 19th March and 26th March 2012.

We have found US data to usually be relevant internationally, too. They are great for pointing out trends and patterns in worldwide usage, even when the numbers don’t match up perfectly. Numbers can fluctuate, but what they mean usually doesn’t. So, what are the major trends?

The largest and most important trend is that people love playing games on tablets. The average tablet owner who plays games downloaded at least 20 games last year, and paid for an average of 7. Games have turned out to be the best money-making content on a tablet. The tablet is beginning to rival the television on the home entertainment food chain.

By far, the leader in spending is in-game virtual good spending, done on a tablet. On a tablet, the average person buying in-game virtual goods spends $62, as opposed to $25 on a smartphone.

Tablets are dominating right now, but smartphones are still doing great, too. Smartphone users downloaded 30% more games than they did last year. Consistent with every number that has come out about smartphones in the last year, iOS leads the way in game downloads. Another factor is that iOS users are more likely to pay for games than users of other systems.

On tablets, playing games is now the second most popular activity, beaten out only by Internet surfing. 67% of tablet users access the Internet at least once a week, while 61% of users play games at least once a week.

A surprising demographic for many is that, of tablet users, 56% were female, while the other 44% were male. Out of those, 57% of the females downloaded paid games, while only 43% of the males did. Doing the math, that means that 31.9% of the tablet users were females who bought games, while 18.9% of tablet users were males who paid for games. In other words, 68.8% more females paid for games on their tablets than men.

There are more numbers available on the original study, but these are the ones we feel that it’s important for you to know, or at least understand the main concepts. We think it’s extremely important that the most prolific paid game downloader is a female who owns an iPad. That can be a major paradigm shift for many game developers, who are often trying to market their games toward young males.

Are we saying to ignore everyone else? Of course not. But this study is a great eye-opener that should point out some very solid possibilities for mobile app developers. Think of the implications:  a majority of games are directed toward males, but females are buying more of them. This raises the rather obvious question: if females are buying more games while they are being underserved, how many would they buy if some savvy mobile game developers decided to target females as their preferred demographic?

Another question that wasn’t asked but would be extremely relevant: how many of the games females downloaded were downloaded for and played with their children?

I like studies like this, because they raise these kinds of questions, and with questions come possibilities. When many people get an idea for an app, it is often based on their own tastes. This is simple human nature: I think an app or game idea is great because it is something I would like to use or it would solve one of my problems.

That works fine, and a lot of great apps have been created to solve a problem in which the developer had a personal stake. But, really, if a mobile game developer doesn’t start asking these questions, and doesn’t start trying to find out what people in other demographics want, he or she is leaving a lot of money on the table. Consequently, those who pay attention to what others want or need are setting themselves up to prosper.

So, if you are a male apps developer, and you want to develop a great app for an underserved market segment, talk to your wife, or your girlfriend, or the woman who sits two cubicles down from yours, or your kids. Find out what people outside your own demographic want. Look over their shoulders at their tablets. Find out what brings out their passion.

It could be the wisest and most profitable decision you’ll ever make.

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