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One in 10 UK adults say they’re ‘addicted’ as new research reveals the true cost of ‘free’ mobile games

12 April 2016
  • Free games’, often known as ‘freemium’ games, can generate more than £1 million EACH per day through in-app purchases.*
  • One in 10 (11%) adults say they are addicted to at least one ‘freemium’ game.**
  • 8% admit to playing mobile games in work.
  • Average spent on in-game purchases in ‘freemium’ games in the UK is £18.62.
  • Nearly one in 10 (9%) parents have their card details registered on their child’s phone for purchases
  • People from Northern Ireland spend the most at £32.66 each, on average.

New research from Gocompare.com Money has revealed the hidden cost of ‘free’ mobile games, with nearly a fifth (19%) of people regularly playing them and one in 10 (11%) admitting to being addicted to at least one game.

Free-to-play or ‘freemium’ games are typically apps that are initially free to download but encourage the player to make in-game purchases, such as extra lives or additional levels, with real world currency. In 2014, free games with in-app purchases made up 92% of the total revenue from the games category on the Apple App Store.

The highest grossing game on the Apple App Store in March 2016 was Game of War – Fire Age which made a staggering £1,088,463 per day. Other popular examples of ‘freemium’ games include Clash of Clans (£859,643 per day), Mobile Strike (£586,829 per day) and Candy Crush Saga (£300,523 per day)

It’s not just adults who are hooked on freemium games, according to the research 16% of parents said their children also played these games, with their children spending £19.32 on average for in-app purchases. What is more, nearly one in 10 (9%) parents said that their credit card details were saved on their children’s phone to enable them to make purchases.

Average spend on in-app purchases by region

1.         Northern Ireland - £32.66
2.         London - £26.8
3.         North West - £19.35
4.         Scotland - £18.54
5.         Yorkshire and the Humber - £17.27
6.         North East - £15.72
7.         West Midlands - £15.13
8.         South West - £14.15
9.         South East - £12.03
10.       East Midlands - £10.78
11.       Wales - £10.62
12.       East Anglia - £9.58

Matt Sanders, credit card spokesperson at Gocompare.com, said: “Free-to-play mobile games might seem like something for nothing. However, most of these games are designed to encourage a ‘just one more’ mentality, and with one in ten adults saying they’re addicted to at least one of these games, this can be a dangerous combination when paired with in-app purchases.

“Free games tend to keep in-app purchases fairly cheap, with regular small purchases key to their income. However, while something like a £2.99 purchase once a week may not seem like much, it can add up to over £150 a year and some may find they’re spending a significant amount of money on a ‘free’ game.

Matt added: “One of the biggest issues some people have is how easy it is to spend money via their mobile. However, there are measures in place that can help you keep on top of your spending.

“For instance, while most app stores will allow you to store your payment card information for future purchases, you can opt to enter your card details each time or set a password for spending. Likewise, if you’re concerned about your children running up a bill on your card, it can be well worth putting this sort of protection in place on their phones too.”

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

- ENDS -

Notes to editors:

*Source; Think Gaming (US) 2016 via Statista

**On the 14th – 23rd March 2016, One Poll conducted an online survey among 2,000 UK parents on 0-16 year olds on behalf of Gocompare.com – results rounded.

*** Source; Distimo (Worldwide), February 2014 via Statista