Inside Virtual Goods: Facebook Credits Gaining in Popularity, But Still New to Many Users

[Editor’s note: Charles Hudson is a co-author of our Inside Virtual Goods industry research report series, a Venture Partner with SoftTech VC, and the CEO and Co-Founder of Bionic Panda Games, a mobile games company based in San Francisco, CA.]

In May 2011, the Inside Virtual Goods team conducted our second annual survey of social games players. Yesterday we released the findings of the report, “Inside Virtual Goods: Spending and Usage Habits of the Social Gaming Audience 2011.” Today’s post is intended give you a sense for some of the more interesting findings in the report.

The 2011 survey, which reached out to nearly 2,000 active social games players on Facebook, covers a wide variety of topics, including how players discover games, how players spend their time and money across games, and a deeper dive on the spending and gameplay habits of “whales” — the top spenders in the social gaming ecosystem.

With the impending mandatory implementation of Facebook Credits coming on July 1st, 2011, we wanted to get a sense for how familiar the most engaged social games player were with Facebook Credits. As part of this year’s survey, we asked players a number of questions about their familiarity with and usage of Facebook Credits to date so as to have a baseline prior to the switch. Here’s more on what we found.

The first question we asked the survey respondents was whether they had heard of Facebook Credits. Keep in mind that the survey population here was people who are generally active social games players, playing multiple games on a daily basis:

Roughly two thirds of the audience we surveyed was familiar with Facebook Credits, which seems appropriate given that Facebook Credits are available in a number of games but are not yet mandatory across the Facebook social games landscape.

Slicing the data a bit further, we were able to get a sense for how Facebook Credits awareness varies by geography. Not surprisingly, Facebook Credits has the greatest awareness in North America by a fairly significant margin.

Of those who mentioned familiarity with Facebook Credits, we asked them a follow-up question as to whether they had actually made a purchase using Facebook Credits. Of those who were familiar with Facebook Credits, nearly half of them reported having actually used Facebook Credits to actually make a purchase:

Again, we took a look at the data on a regional basis and found that North America once again was the dominant region in which we found users who had used Facebook Credits to make a purchase in a game. Results show that Facebook Credits is beginning to get a good beachhead in North America, with less traction in the other major geographies around the globe.

Finally, we asked those survey respondents who had familiarity with Facebook Credits whether the Facebook Credits system made it easier to buy things in games:

In addition to the question, we also gave them the opportunity to provide us with some free-response feedback on whether they’ve used Facebook Credits and whether they think Facebook Credits make it easier to make purchases. We’ve included some of the more interesting free-response quotes below:

“Yes, because with FB Credits, it’s a lot easier to buy things in different games without having to buy cash to each game individually: it’s more practical, and economical.” – Male, 13-18, Portugal

“I prefer to use the [company-specific] game cards. It’s just easier for me personally.” – Female, 37-42, United States

“I only use Facebook Credits: I wont give my credit card info to individual game companies. If they don’t allow FB credits, I won’t buy” – Female, 37-42, United States

“Only did it once, because I got the credits free. Would not spend money on them.” – Female, 43-48, United States

“The first time I used them it was a bit confusing on how to start the process. Once I figured it out, it was pretty easy. I doubt I will purchase them however.” – Female, 37-42, United States

In addition to the quotes above, there was a steady stream of people who used the free-response section to make it very clear that they were happy to use the Facebook Credits that they were given for free but they either didn’t have the means to pay for additional credits or they didn’t have any interest in actually paying for things in Facebook games, no matter how easy and seamless the process might be.

Overall, the core value proposition for Facebook Credits is that it should improve conversions and monetization for developers by standardizing on a platform-wide payment system common to all games. Based on the results of our survey, it’s clear that we are still in the early stages of Facebook Credits awareness and adoption among active social games players.

The complete results of our study are available in the full report, Inside Virtual Goods: Spending and Usage Patterns of the Social Gaming Audience 2011.

About the Report

Inside Virtual Goods: Spending and Usage Patterns of the Social Gaming Audience 2011 gives you an inside view of the market at this critical juncture in the intersection of social networking and online games.

We have surveyed nearly 2,000 players of social games on Facebook from around the world and across the demographic spectrum. Inside Virtual Goods: Spending and Usage Patterns of the Social Gaming Audience 2011 is the most in-depth independent survey of player behavior and spending patterns in the social gaming market.

About the Authors

charles-hudson-headshotCharles Hudson

Venture Partner, SoftTech VC, CEO and Co-Founder, Bionic Panda Games

Charles Hudson is a Venture Partner with SoftTech VC and the CEO and Co-Founder of Bionic Panda Games, a mobile games company based in San Francisco, CA.

Until February 2010, he was the VP of Business Development for Serious Business, a leading producer of social games. Zynga acquired Serious Business in February of 2010. Prior to Serious Business, Hudson worked at Gaia Interactive, Google, IronPort Systems, and In-Q-Tel. Hudson also founded Third Power LLC, a conference and events company that was acquired by WebMediaBrands. Charles holds an MBA and BA from Stanford University.

justin-smith-headshotJustin Smith

Founder, Inside Network

Justin Smith is the founder of Inside Network, the first service dedicated to providing news and market research to the Facebook platform and social gaming ecosystem. Justin leads Inside Network’s analyst services, manages Inside Network’s AppData service, and serves as co-editor of Inside Facebook and Inside Social Games. Inside Network was acquired by WebMediaBrands (NASDAQ:WEBM) in May 2011.

Prior to Inside Network, he was Head of Product at Watercooler, now Kabam, a leading social game developer on the Facebook Platform. Prior to Watercooler, Justin was an early employee at Xfire, the largest social utility for gamers, which was sold to Viacom in 2006.

Justin holds a degree in Computer Systems Engineering from Stanford University, where he was a Mayfield Fellow and a recipient of the Terman Award in Engineering.