Free-to-play games are all the rage here in 2012. With MMOs, social games, and mobile games leading the way, some analysts see the model as the inevitable wave of the future across genres. And given how very well freemium games seem to be doing, they might just be right.
The NPD analyst group's newest report confirms that, love them or hate them, the games are now a really big deal. 38% of the United States population, they report, currently play some kind of freemium game. That's an estimate of roughly 114 million people, give or take.
The data came from a survey of over 6000 American children and adults, and some of the report's other findings run against the current conventional wisdom. They found that while girls and women are, as expected, significantly more likely to play freemium games, male consumers are the ones more likely to pay real cash for virtual goodies.
Also, in contrast to earlier studies finding that only a very small percentage of users ever pay, this survey found that 40% of players had purchased in-game content at least once, and that 84% of players who try freemium games end up sticking with the genre.
There are few faster ways to cause a fight in a room full of gamers than to bring up anything relating to the "core vs "casual" debate, but as this report reminds us, the divisions aren't absolute. The casual, free-to-play marketplace may be the new kid on the block of video games, but it's big business and most of us will try it out at some time or another.