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UK adults spend almost £90 million* on ‘freemium games’

13 July 2017

New research reveals the true cost of in-app micro purchases

  • Over a third (37%) of people play freemium games more than five days a week
  • Average spend on in-app purchases is £13.22
  • 8% of parents say their child had run up an unexpected bill on their credit card
  • 17% of people said that they’re addicted to at least one game
  • People in East Anglia spend the most on freemium games with an average spend of £24.73

New research from GoCompare Money lifts the veil on the hidden costs of ‘freemium’ games, with more than a third (37%) of people saying that they regularly play and 17% admitting to being addicted to at least one game.

Freemium, often referred to as free-to-play games, are typically mobile apps or online games that are initially free, but offer players the opportunity to purchases extras, such as lives or special items, through in-app micro purchases.

The freemium game model has become a massive market and some of the more popular games can generate more than £1 million a day**. However, it’s not just adults who play these games. One in ten people said that their children play freemium games, with 8% of those saying that their children had run up a bill on their card via in-game purchases.

Average spend on in-app purchases by region:

 1 East Anglia £24.73
 2 Northern Ireland £21.79
 3 West Midlands £21.73
 4 Yorkshire and the Humber £18.58
 5 North West£14.61
 5 London £13.76
 6 East Midlands £12.25
 7 Scotland £9.41
 8 Wales £9.36
 9 North East £7.07
 10 South East £6.91
 11 South West £5.61


Commenting on the research, Matt Sanders of GoCompare Money said: “Free-to-play mobile and social media games can be a great way to kill some time, but the often simple yet frustrating format can encourage a ‘just one more go’ mentality.

“In-app purchases are usually fairly cheap, but spending £2.99 here and there, for extra lives or an item to help you beat that one level that you’ve been stuck on all week, can quickly add up.

“Another issue is how easy these transactions can be to make. While giving your child a smart phone or tablet to play with may seem innocent enough, but if your card details have been stored on the device, they could quickly rack up a hefty bill with just the push of a button.

“To avoid accidental or excessive purchases, check you app store settings, you should be able to choose to enter your card details or set up a password to authorise any spending.”

For more information visit GoCompare’s guide to online card payments.

- ENDS -

Notes to editors:

Survey of 2,000 UK adults carried out by OnePoll (8 to 13 March 2017).  Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

* £250 million figure - UK adult population (18+) estimated to be 48,913,000 (source: ONS Annual mid-year population estimates for the UK 2015).

-36.75% have played a freemium game: 36.75% of 48,913,00 = 17.9 million people

-38.23% had spent money: 38.23% of 17.9 Million people = 6.8 Million people

-6.8 million x £13.22 (Average spend) = £89,896,000** Source; https://thinkgaming.com/app-sales-data/