The free-to-play model tends to rely on a relatively small number of heavy spenders financing the development for others who are more thrifty. A new study suggests the disparity between those two groups is even larger than we may have realized, asserting that just 0.15% of players make up 50% of the revenue for in-game purchases on mobile devices.
Data from mobile network Swrve (via IGN) found that only 1.5% of players made any in-app purchases at all in January 2014. Half of the overall revenue was made from the relatively tiny 10% of users who spent any money, which is how it arrived at the 0.15% figure. That would also mean that 98.5% of mobile players don't bother with in-app purchases at all.
The study also found that of paying customers, 49% only make one purchase in a calendar month. Most of the spending activity is done within the first 24 hours, but if you do purchase something you're more likely (53%) to go on to make a repeat purchase within two weeks. Most purchases (67%) are between $1-5, but those only contribute to 27% of the revenue. The relatively lower number of high-value purchases over $50 (0.7%) contribute 9% of all revenues.
Swrve is a mobile network that provides a platform for app developers, and all of the data collected was from apps running through their network. The data was restricted to free-to-play games, so priced games with in-app purchases weren't part of the study. Swirve says it examined data from tens of millions of people during January.