Growth of social gaming market steadily rising as players willing to exchange real money for virtual content

chartLess than three years ago, the concept of “social gaming” was still a brainchild in the wombs of developers.

In 2008, revenues for the social gaming market clocked in at just under $80 million, a drop in the bucket compared to other gaming markets. However, the concept caught like wildfire, and revenue skyrocketed to an astounding $639 million, according to Screen Digest. And in 2010, revenues are expected to climb to well over $800 million, this growth rate is anticipated for the long term, with predictions that social gaming revenue will exceed $1.5 billion by 2014, averaging more than 20% growth per year.

“Improving game design and cultivating a better understanding of conversion trigger points will enable social game operators to gradually increase the rate at which they convert free gamers to paying customers and also how much these customers spend,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games at Screen Digest, in a statement. “This trend has already occurred in other microtransactional games markets—massively multiplayer online games is the key example—and Screen Digest expects the social games sector to follow this pattern providing ongoing market growth even across well penetrated markets and networks.”

Relatedly, virtual goods company PlaySpan found in this past May that nearly 30% of internet users in North America have purchased virtual goods in a social networking game. And in another survey by PlaySpan, it was found  that one-third of online gamers had exchanged real money for virtual currency, items, or content in a social networking game. This study found the median amount spent per year on social networking games was $50, a number exceeding the median spending on less casual online games like massively multiplayer role-playing games ($40), and even console games with an online component (just $20).