The number of people in the United States who regularly download games to their mobile devices has nearly tripled in three years, according to a new report from Parks Associates.
The whitepaper, Trends in Digital Gaming: Free-to-Play, Social, and Mobile Games, points out that this demographic has grown from 7 percent in 2008 to 18 percent by 2011.
Growing interest in tablets is largely behind this as 71 percent of adults and 79 percent of teens are said to play games on tablets for at least one hour each month.
As tablet sales rise, game developers will place further focus on designing more complex games for this platform, facilitating a new and possibly higher revenue stream.
Parks Associates research analyst Pietro Macchiarella explained in the report that games built for tablets and smartphones have a much more competitive advantage these days compared to those developed for PCs.
In-app purchases greatly expand monetization of the free-to-play model, thanks to seamless payments. Already, most of the top grossing games on iTunes and Android can be downloaded for free and generate the majority of their revenues via virtual purchases. While mobile players are often characterized as 'casual gamers,' they spend a comparable amount of money on free-to-play titles as their peers spend on console games.
Last year, a report from Exent, owner of FreeRideGames.com, asserted that free and ad-supported mobile gaming apps were killing the "try-buy" model. But that's likely much more evident now as gaming companies release more titles filled with in-app purchases.
Facebook is one online hotspot where this is quite evident, as gamers spend $29 per month on average on the social network. As for "free" games, frequent players actually tend to spend $21 per month on average for purchasing virtual goods and upgrades.
The full whitepaper about mobile gaming trends is available to download from Parks Associates now.