Hugh de Loayza, Zynga
- 50% of US women play online games, but when interviewed for a panel, don’t consider themselves on-line gamers. 41% of these ladies have used virtual currency
- Of those that play games with virtual currency, only 9% chose offers based on the points being awarded.
- They even stock up on virtual currency more often than they hit the ATM.
What explains this behavior? Q Interactive and The Social Media World Forum conducted a study of 2,100 women to study how US females interact with games. And they are not the typical teenage boys playing first person shooters.
Bob Girolamo of Q Interactive presented the study last week in San Jose at the conference. Some interesting tidbits:
- Women are using few games – 50% are using 2 or less games. 85% of these ladies are at 5 or less. So there’s lots of trial, but only a couple stick.
- They earn and spend virtual currency daily – the game dynamics draw them in. And it’s not just FarmVille, though that is the most popular of virtual currency apps with over 60 million users. 56.8% of women visit social networking sites at least a few times per week.
- When asked, “What made you want to play certain games?” 53% said that a friend or family member recommended it.
- When asked, “Why do you use virtual currency” 38% want to advance in the game, while 17% to acquire gifts. Peer pressure works.
- Have you used real money to purchase virtual currency? 10% said yes.
- So why not spending “real” money? 38% can’t afford it. Yet 88% of the women are controlling the household finances – 60% completely. Many don’t understand how to use PayPal, plus privacy issues.
- Do you give more virtually or in real life? 53% give as many real world gifts as virtually.
Now how about the offers themselves? The current wisdom is that incentivized ads are of low quality because users complete the offers solely to get points:
- 67% of women say that the offers are useful—but the glass is half full.
- Women pick offers based on content, not on the amount of virtual currency awarded. Only 9% choose offers based on the reward.
- Surveys were the most popular method to earn currency at 34%. In second place at 22% are hard goods (toys, electronics). Mobile is surprisingly not in this mix, which argues for a different demographic converting on mobile offers.
So how do we interpret these results? Some hypotheses:
- Female games are a completely different demographic than overall Facebook users—true, in that certain apps skew by gender and that this is a distinctly non college age user base.
- Sample bias in the study: This is something that can be leveled at any study, especially in how they selected these women and the small sample size. It may be that there are working professional women who are playing almost as much, but doing so in stealth and are harder to contact than stay-at-home moms. However, I’d rule out sample bias. Matt Wise, President of Q Interactive, noted that “Women seek a partner to support their entertainment, which is exceptionally important given their busy lives.” Thus, games provide interaction among groups of women who stay at home.
- Winning is fun: The fact that 97% of women prefer to earn their way through the game versus paying for currency says that the process of earning coins is likely enjoyable and that “cheating” by buying currency is taboo. The study did not comment on how much of this was influenced by the lack of purchase power.
- Users want to engage with brands: It’s not that the games built by players such as Zynga are bad or that the ad networks themselves are locked into an evil cycle. Rather, the right offers from trusted advertisers might allow users to enjoy free games, advertisers to get decent ROI, and game developers to be able to support their applications via games.
Overall, I found these results surprising, but intuitive in hindsight. What do you think?