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Age (and ARPPU) ain’t nothing but a number: Data on how age impacts social gaming monetization

Today we have the first part of a fantastic two part series where Gambit, a microtransactions platform, is sharing exclusive data and analysis for the payments happening on their platform. The author, Susan Su (@susanfsu), is a writer, marketer, and Stanford alum who’s currently at Gambit Payments. She wants startups to make it big, and you to make more money. Enjoy! –Andrew

Susan Su Profile Photo 80x80

Age (and ARPPU) ain’t nothing but a number
by Susan Su, Gambit Payments

In the game of life, you’ve heard that age ain’t nothing but a number. In the world of social games and virtual currencies, the same thing goes. The smart developers know to segment by age groups and target towards those with the highest demonstrated ARPPUs. The even smarter developers know that age ain’t nothing but a number – a single, lonely metric that can dangerously limit your view when you exclude crucial supporting data.

In this post, we’re using demographic data from Gambit Payments to get a bird’s eye view of ARPPUs by age and transaction volume. We’ll see that age data – and even ARPPUs – mean little without the context of volume.

A look at highest grossing ages
Which users pay the most to play?

From this data set, you can see that Gambit’s developers got the highest ARPPUs with users aged 50+. In this month, 60 year old users brought in a $7.92 ARPPU, more than double the ARPPU seen with the younger set.

Age Group Key Avg ARPPU by Group
50+: $5.20
40-49 $4.39
30-39: $4.11
20-29: $3.07
18-19 $2.66
16-17 $2.58
14-15: $2.70
12-13: $3.85

Players in their 40s averaged a $4.39 ARPPU range – a pretty impressive figure still. Going younger, players in the 30 to 39 year old range brought in a slightly lower ARPPU of $4.11 while players in their 20s brought in $3.07 on average. Finally, teenage players brought in ARPPUs in the mid-$2 range.

This data should come as no surprise. Let’s take a look at the main levers feeding into ARPPU:

  • Income. How much money does this user or group of users make? In most respects, this lever is straightforward; if the user in question doesn’t pull in an income, they won’t initiate direct payment for your currency. But, that’s what offers are for. Note, however, that offers typically do not bring in the same flashy ARPPUs as direct credit card or PayPal payments.
  • Access to which type of payment. What payment methods are available for this user or group of users? Since we’re talking ARPPUs here, a paying user is a paying user – and thus already has access to some type of payment. However, remember that not all payment methods deliver the same dollar value to your pocket.
    • Does this user or group of users have access to credit card payment or PayPal? If so, you’re in luck. These methods typically bring in the highest revenues because they’re relatively easy and impose minimal friction. Note that PayPal penetration may be low in some parts of the country and world, so it’s unlikely that PayPal will be your biggest breadwinner overall.
    • Will they be paying through their mobile provider? With mobile, money travels through lots of different hands – mobile aggregators, mobile operators, mobile payments providers – before it reaches you, a trickle-down process that will affect earnings accordingly. Also, keep in mind that mobile is based on fixed pricepoints, which gives you less flexibility for what people will pay for. Finally, when paying with mobile, there’s also a cap on a transaction’s dollar amount – you can’t, for example, pay for something costing $100 through your mobile service. While mobile payments typically bring in lower ARPPUs, they also have lower access barriers and are relevant to a wider swathe of your users.
    • Will they be completing offers to earn your currency? Offers can bring in decent ARPPUs, but, for certain user groups, may lack the longetivity of direct payment methods. Will your users complete offers, only to decide that they hate the experience and would rather abandon the process – or your community – altogether? How will you deal with this? For further exploration of this topic, see Gambit’s post on user complaints and coping strategies.
  • Willingness to buy online. What is this user’s comfort level with online purchasing? If they’re uncomfortable with online purchasing, ARPPUs associated with this user or group of users will dive accordingly. This becomes a particularly interesting question when you start looking at other demographic data in addition to age – you may find, for example, that users in a certain geographic region are more comfortable with online purchasing because of variance in internet penetration or fluency.

If these levers sound familiar to you, you’re doing well so far. Now let’s see how each of these factors works in the context of the data presented above.

Older users
Older users not only have disposable income, they have access to the payment utilities – credit cards, mobile phones, PayPal accounts – that bring their money to your community. Why 60 year olds specifically? You should view the fact that 60 year olds were at the top as a datapoint specific to this set (an outlier) than a generality that should be extrapolated into rule. If you take a look at the groupings, the 50+ group still achieves an average ARPPU (across individual years) of $5.20 – pretty impressive.

At the other end of the spectrum, your community’s youngest paying participants probably don’t have jobs or the disposable income they bring. Their access to direct payment methods is likely to be highly limited or nonexistent. On the other hand, they probably do have access to mobile payments, and can always complete offers. Based on the notes above, you know that payment via mobile and offers will mean lower ARPPUs for these users.

The key here is to know your users – Who are they? How much money do they make? Where do they live? What types of payment methods are available to them, and how willing / able are they to engage with different methods?

Revenue breakdown by age
Finally, does all this mean it’s time to regroup your acquisition efforts and start to go after the 50+ set (or, if you have been already, give yourself a hearty pat on the back and quit working so hard)? Not yet. Let’s take a look at the percentage of total revenue that these groups bring in, respectively.

Percent Tot Revenue Group

It turns out, despite impressive ARPPUs, the 50+ group makes a sad showing when we start looking at percentage of total revenue. If we’d halted our analysis at individual ages, or even broader age groupings, and the ARPPUs they demonstrated in this data set, we would have missed the point entirely.

Transactions breakdown by age
For Gambit developers, 50+ was the goose that never laid its golden egg. All the users in this entire group represent only half a percentage point of Gambit developers’ total revenue for this period. This isn’t because there are 200 age groupings, either. Let’s take a closer look.

Percent Tot Transactions Group

Wow. The 50+ group represents a meager 0.3% of total transactions – a figure so small that it barely registers a speck on the revenue radar for Gambit’s developers. Users in their 20s, by contrast, produced 22.5% of all transactions. Finally, teen users represented a whopping 73.5% of transactions made across all Gambit developers. 73.5 versus 0.3… suddenly that $7.92 ARPPU doesn’t seem so significant anymore.

What’s good about the user groups bringing in lower ARPPUs, and how do you optimize their experience to impact your revenues? Conversely, is it possible or worthwhile to improve transaction volume for the highest ARPPU groups? In next week’s post, we’ll go over the strategy implications of the data we presented here and contrast a few approaches to make you more money.

For data geeks
If you prefer to look at the above data in a neat table instead of a fancy pie chart, here it is:


Age Group Key Avg ARPPU by Group % Total Rev by Group % Total Transactions by Group


50+: $5.2 0.58% 0.32%


40-49 $4.39 0.62% 0.40%


30-39: $4.11 5.52% 3.85%


20-29: $3.07 23.24% 22.48%


18-19 $2.66 19.68% 20.94%


16-17 $2.58 24.73% 27.27%


14-15: $2.7 19.90% 21.00%


12-13: $3.85 5.72% 4.29%

Hope you enjoy this data from Gambit Payments, and part 2 of this article will be coming soon!

[Andrew: Thanks again to Susan for putting together this great post!]

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