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Survey shows 23% of all 'app gamers' play exclusively on smartphones and tablets

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 8:38PM EST

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Given how successful games such as Rovio’s Bad Piggies have been, it’s not shocking that mobile gaming hasn’t peaked yet. According to the NPD Group’s latest Mobile Gaming 2012 report, 23 percent of 5,923 “app gamers” surveyed said they played games exclusively on mobile devices and nearly 50% of them said they played more mobile games this year compared to 2011. The NPD Group cited two reasons for the rapid increase in app gamers: free games and convenience. While many app games do start out free, 30 percent of those surveyed said they had made in-app purchases or upgraded from the free version to the paid one.

“Many mobile gaming consumers have grown accustomed to gaming for free, making it essential to find the sweet spot for pricing that encourages purchasing by as many consumers as possible,” said Liam Callahan, an analyst at NPD Group.

Callahan went on to say the challenge for developers and publishers is how to convert gamers from the free versions to the paid ones, or to even lure mobile gamers over to console gaming where games and in-game extras cost significantly more than on mobile.

The NPD Group’s press release follows below.



Port Washington, NY, October 11, 2012 – According to Mobile Gaming 2012, the latest report from leading market research company, The NPD Group,among all app gamers, 59 percent of total game play is done on a mobile device.  The growing importance of app gamers, defined as mobile gamers who play most often on a smartphone or tablet, is demonstrated by the fact that 23 percent of these app gamers only play on mobile devices.


When comparing the gaming behavior of gamers in 2012 vs. 2011, almost half of gamers said they are playing mobile games more this year than last year, with the main reasons for this increase being free apps (37 percent), followed closely by portability and convenience (34 percent).


App Acquisition

Close to 30 percent of app gamers have made either an in-app game purchase or have upgraded from a free app to a paid version. The average price at which app gamers feel they would have received a good value is for an app game purchase or a free-to-paid app upgrade is approximately $3.


Gamers who choose to game most often on a smartphone are not as likely to have made an in-app game purchase or to have upgraded to a paid app when compared to tablet gamers who are more likely to have done both behaviors. Not surprisingly, as gaming frequency increases, so does the likelihood of having made a purchase or upgrade.


“Many mobile gaming consumers have grown accustomed to gaming for free, making it essential to find the sweet spot for pricing that encourages purchasing by as many consumers as possible,” said Liam Callahan, industry analyst, The NPD Group. “Mobile game developers and publishers need to be able to maximize their opportunities by identifying ways to increase the number of gamers willing to upgrade their free apps or pay for in-app purchases, which currently stand at close to 30 percent.  Another opportunity for the industry as a whole is to convert mobile-only gamers to engage in other gaming activities across portables, consoles and PC’s where we see more money being spent per user.”



An online survey was fielded from August 7, 2012 to August 16, 2012 to members of NPD’s online panel. The survey was completed by 5,923 individuals ages 2 and older.  For children under the age of 16, respondents were contacted using a parental surrogate, with the parent sitting with the child and helping younger children complete the survey if necessary.


About The NPD Group, Inc.

The NPD Group is the leading provider of reliable and comprehensive consumer and retail information for a wide range of industries. Today, more than 2,000 manufacturers, retailers, and service companies rely on NPD to help them drive critical business decisions at the global, national, and local market levels. NPD helps our clients to identify new business opportunities and guide product development, marketing, sales, merchandising, and other functions. Information is available for the following industry sectors: automotive, beauty, entertainment, fashion, food, home and office, sports, technology, toys, video games, and wireless.  For more information, contact us, visit, or follow us Twitter at

Raymond Wong is a technology reporter with a passion for cutting-edge gadgets and clean design. His writing has appeared on DVICE, Ubergizmo, G4TV, Yahoo News, NBC blogs. You might even have seen his videos on Xbox LIVE.