The global market for mobile virtual goods and premium subscriptions is expected to reach $4.7 billion USD by 2016, according to an October 2011 white paper from Juniper Research. Findings from “Virtual Goods – Real Revenues on Mobile” indicate the Far East and China will be the overwhelmingly dominant regional driver of this growth, with Western Europe and North America coming in a distant second and third place in terms of mobile virtual goods spending.
Juniper predicts increasing numbers of global smartphones will make declining feature phone spend irrelevant, as the growth in smartphones fuels overall increases in virtual goods/premium subscription spending.
In emerging markets such as Africa/Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent, where the feature phone install base is still growing, receptiveness to virtual goods is expected to remain low via this platform. However, in the Far East and China, feature phones will remain an important platform for virtual goods.
Virtual Goods Typically Cost $1
Juniper analysis indicates virtual goods, which are intangible, digital items which cost little to produce and are often sold in bulk at low prices, typically cost about $1 USD each. Many virtual goods are images of physical goods, and Juniper says in-game items are a major source of virtual good revenue for many sites. These items can often be obtained free through hours of gameplay, but most players choose to save time by buying them instead.
Mobile Social Media Types Vary
Virtual goods are sold through varying types of mobile social media. Juniper identifies four major types of social media, which are listed below with a brief description of each.
Social Networking: This encompasses browser-based social networks which allow users to keep a list of contacts/friends, contact other users, and upload content such as photos or videos to share with other users.
Geosocial Networking: Geosocial networks, many of which run on mobile phones, provide the features of social networks and also allow activities such as sharing current and past location with other users, viewing the location of other users, and leaving notifications or advice for other users. Some offer location-based advertising.
Dating: Another form of social networking, dating networks aim to put strangers with similar interests in touch. Some dating networks are offering geosocial features, such as the ability to locate other nearby network members.
Content Publishing: Content publishing networks offer many of the same features as social networks, but focus is on content uploads rather than communication between members. Content publishing networks include social news sites and video/picture sharing sites.
comScore: Mobile Social Networking Booms
A total of 72.2 million Americans accessed social networking sites or blogs on their mobile device in August 2011, an increase of 37% from 52.7 million in the past year, according to comScore Mobile Metrix data released in October 2011. Nearly 40 million US mobile users, more than half of the mobile social media audience, accessed these sites almost every day, a 58% year-over-year jump from almost 25.3 million.
comScore research also indicated that although more people accessed these sites via their mobile browser, the social networking app audience grew five times faster in the past year. While the mobile browsing social networking audience grew 24% to 42.3 million users in the past year, the mobile social networking app audience surged 126% to 38.5 million.