– This is the script of CNBC's news report for China's CCTV on August 10, Monday.
Welcome to CNBC Business Daily, I'm Qian Chen.
Some just want to annihilate the dragon. Some want to crush the candy so bad they'll shell out hard-earned cash to advance to the next level. Some will even spend thousands of real dollars to visit a virtual casino with no chance of a real, actual jackpot at the end.
This is the growing world of in-app purchases, or "micro transactions," a multibillion dollar industry based on "freemium," a category of smartphone apps that are free to download but users can pay real money to either continue using past a certain point or to advance in difficult or hard-to-beat levels.
Data suggest that iPhone users tend to spend more than Android users, and in general, the world of in-app purchases is no different. Those who choose Apple spend more on average in nearly all games that are supported on both platforms, according to data provided to CNBC by NPD Group's Checkout Tracking. Checkout Tracking studied the behavior of its users in the six-month period between December 2014 and May 2015.
The NPD system allows users to opt to have their purchase behavior tracked. NPD then uses the aggregated data for market research on consumer trends and behavior. With 2 million users distributed around the nation, Checkout Tracking has a pretty good representative sample of the habits of Americans on their smartphones.
The most popular games across the two platforms are pretty similar: "Clash of Clans" and "Candy Crush Saga" take the top spots on both systems.
Social casinos are one of the fastest growing groups of gaming: revenue is expected to reach $3.5 billion in 2015, according to figures from Eilers Research, a firm that tracks the gaming industry. That's up from $2.8 billion in 2014 and $1.3 billion in 2012.
Plus, the people who are into mobile casino games are really into them. The difference between mean and median for those games is greater than for other game types, meaning they have more skewed distributions. One iPhone user paid nearly $22,000 playing "Big Fish Casino" in the time period.
But it's in terms of average in-app spend that iTunes and Google Play users distinguish themselves. The average spend for iPhone users on "Game of War-Fire Age" was $398 during the period studied, more than twice the $165 the average Android user spent.
Across all apps, iPhone users spend more on in-app purchases, too, $56.24, as opposed to $52.78 for Android users.
"The income levels are typically higher for Apple users," said Liam Callahan, a gaming industry analyst at Checkout Tracking. "It probably speaks more to the engagement on that platform."
Among iPhone users, the 45-54 age range averaged $146 during the period studied, with the 55 and above group close behind, at $145. The older set were big spenders among Android users as well, plunking down an average of $120.
The paid mobile gaming industry is broken into two categories: Premium games, for which users pay off the bat, and free-to-play (or "freemium"), which you can play for free, but upgrades and advancement cost real money.
In terms of in-app purchases, free-to-play games are the ones people spend the most on. The logic is that by providing a free product, people will get into it and pay a little bit to get ahead or to get past a level that seems impossible (hello, "Candy Crush" level 147!) "The mobile market has really moved almost completely free-to-play," Callahan said. "Paid games are really a very small part of revenue."
Now, circle up the wagons, crush the candy and run that temple.
CNBC's Qian Chen, reporting from Singapore.
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