"Roblox is my problem - when I was 8, I spent $400 on dad's card, just on Roblox. Not Madden 23 or Fortnite - they don't make me do that. They both make me want to but it's like $20 and dad sees the purchases on the PS4 when I make stupid purchases. Roblox seems a good deal, it's kinda like food if it gives you good deals you keep buying" – Beano Brain Trendspotter Age 12
Here at Beano Brain we are big fans of the power of gaming – only recently a study from the University of Vermont reported that children who game for 3+hours outperformed their peers in cognitive and memory tests.
However, the gaming industry does face criticism when it comes both the stickiness of the games and the commercial model of some of the open source, free-to-play games which drive revenue through micro-payments for add-ons. The above comment from one of our Beano Brain Trendspotters perfectly highlights the reservations many parents have.
However, kids and teens do appear to be quite savvy shoppers when it comes to buying the games themselves - this year in particular we are seeing a much slower response to FIFA 23 amid the cost of living crisis in the UK. But in-game purchases buying credits or upgrading a character’s skills have become the new pocket money impulse buys.
According to our Beano Brain Omnibus – 41% of kids in the UK and US have spent money in games, rising to 52% amongst boys. Roblox is the most popular platform to spend on with 47% of UK kids and 55% kids in the US buying extras in the last month, followed by Minecraft at 41% and 43% respectively.
Peer pressure when a game becomes THE platform to be on plays a key part in tempting kids to spend as does the sheer stickiness of some games. Those $2 micropayments are very tempting especially when combined with bragging rights amongst your mates! According to our data UK kids spend an average of £9.20 and US kids spent $10.20 on in-game purchases in a month.
We do find a level of understanding of the commercial model at a relatively young age:
“I don’t really want to waste my money on the chance that I never play the game, one of my friends did that” – Harris, Age 11
But that understanding can be hard won (for both parent and child) and often result in buyer’s remorse – something that adults know only too well.
“I bought some silver antler horns and glasses you put on your avatar in Roblox. I bought them because they looked cool and I had been wanting them for a while. I only buy if there is a limited quantity but that costs more. I paid $20 for the antlers – I’m a bit embarrassed by that now” – Alex, Age 13
The Gen Alpha equivalent of pocket money spent in the local store means that £22million (UK) and $143.6million* (US) in-game expenditure could be spent by kids age 7-14 a month.
As the big gaming brands increasingly find themselves under the microscope when engaging a young audience, the challenge for parents is first, understanding the commercial model underpinning these games and secondly educating themselves and their kids on how to manage their wallets.
If you'd like to talk more about how Gen Alpha are spending their money or family attitudes to gaming, please get in touch and use our brain.
*Beano Brain Omnibus December 2022: Based on average spend of £9.20 and $10.20 combined with 39% (UK) and 43% (US) making in-game purchases per month