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More than 60% of Americans play video games, making gaming a cultural staple in American entertainment, while movie theater attendance has hit an all-time low. So Arm Treasure Data decided to do a survey of microtransactions and see what that reveals about what’s happening in games.

And the company found that the most popular games — Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Fortnite, Super Smash Bros., and Pokémon Go — didn’t always correspond to the games with the most microtransactions. In fact, Super Smash Bros., the fifth-most-played game, had the least players purchasing downloadable content.

The customer data platform company surveyed 994 people who play video games regularly to see how their favorite games and virtual worlds impact their spending. Not surprisingly, Generation X and Millennials made up the largest components of the survey, and women accounted for about 40% of respondents. More than half (55%) play daily or mostly daily, with 26% saying they play a few times per week.

Gaming consoles still lead as the platform gamers play most (43%) followed by a computer (35%) and smartphone or tablet (23%).

Significant spending

Fortnite Chapter 2.

Above: Fortnite Chapter 2.

Image Credit: Epic Games

The availability of content for purchase in video games has become increasingly common in recent years. The adoption of in-game microspending and purchasable content in free-to-play models has proven lucrative and effective, possibly setting the standard for the future of gaming.

Fortnite is notorious for getting its players to spend money. The survey found the average Fortnite gamer spending around $82 in the past year on microtransactions and downloadable

62% of respondents spent cash on expansion packs, making it the most popular piece of content, but the average expense here was only $56.

Half of gamers also spent money on skins, wardrobe, and cosmetic upgrades, which cost significantly more — $75 on average.

Currency was the most expensive at $98 per the average player, although only 36 percent of respondents said they purchased video game currency.

Games aren’t generating the $60 average revenue anymore. Of those the competitive games, League of Legends was the most likely to rack up high yearly bills for players, with the average gamer spending $119 on downloadable content and microtransactions annually. Grand Theft Auto also collected an average of $117 from players, followed by Fortnite and Counter-Strike ($97). Those who did not play competitively spent far less on these games on average.

Overall, League of Legends was the most expensive for gamers at $92, although men spent an average of $100, and women spent an average of $78. The most expensive game for women
was Dota, which annually came at a price tag of $110. The relative popularity of a game wasn’t always indicative of the fan base’s willingness to pay for upgrades.

Gender equity is growing

Gaming is often erroneously thought of as a male hobby, Arm Treasure Data said. Women actually make up around 41% of all gamers in the United States, and they may be on track to spend record amounts of money on the industry. In fact, women represented around 65% of the total mobile gaming population and were observed to spend more on in-game purchases than their male counterparts.

Women spent more money than men on average on gaming consoles, downloadable content, and gaming accessories: Women spent an average of $359 on downloadable content and accessories annually, compared to the $335 spent by men. Women also paid more, on average, for their gaming consoles, although men spent $73 more than women when it came to personal gaming computers (men spent $760 on average).

The future of microtransactions?

Existing gaming platforms on desktop and consoles have introduced similar upgrades — such as in-game items, weapons, skins, and other goods — through micropayment purchases. Microtransactions are also making it easier for gamers to pay for these extras, and forecasts look strong for these new money-making endeavors.

How do the most financially devoted fans react?

In an effort to see which games produce the most financially devoted fan bases — and how characteristics such as gender play a role in these gaming trends, Arm Treasure Data focused on people who play games regularly.

Why might Fortnite attract more in-game purchases?

For starters, a huge range of cosmetic skins are available so that players can express themselves through ornament and garb, decking out their characters as they please. Accessing the fun embellishments, however, requires the purchase of currency called V-Bucks. This is when in-game spending opportunities get even wider: Purchasing V-Bucks gives players access to a Battle Pass, which creates tiered levels of the game that unlock more cosmetic purchases. Even for free games like Fortnite, players have plenty to download and spend money on.

Despite ranking as the third most popular game, the majority of gamers who played Fortnite (85 percent) spent money on downloadable content, compared to 80% who spent money on Dota, 71% who spent on Hearthstone, and 69% who forked over cash on Destiny. Often, certain games offer better rewards, packages, diversity of upgrades, or value that compel players to subscribe more readily to microtransactions.

What’s motivating gamers to invest in premium weapons, game expansions, and other virtual goodies? According to the survey results, it’s to get a competitive edge. 52% of gamers said they purchased content to have a better fighting chance, while 70% believed their level of play would be more competitive if they could afford more. As it turns out, gaming is no meritocracy.

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