The rapid take-up of tablets, combined with the growing acceptance of in-game purchasing and virtual currencies, will result in an estimated $3,03-billion of sales in 2016, reaching over 10-times the $301-million figure calculated for 2012. 
This is according to a new Juniper report on mobile and tablet games, which investigates the impact of mobile games on the wider video games industry, found that there had been a clear migration of users from dedicated portable gaming devices across to tablets, and to some extent, smartphones.
The freemium model, which is being embraced by tablet users, cannot be implemented as easily on portable gaming devices, as games have to be purchased upfront and the devices themselves often do not allow for a 3G or 4G connection.
Increasingly, developers are using virtual currencies to monetise their handset or tablet games, rather than offering in-game items or pay-per-download titles.
This can increase users’ engagement with the game, as once the virtual currency is purchased, it can only be spent within that game. Developers are now beginning to focus more on the stickiness of their game, as they realise that creating a high-quality game is not enough to guarantee a profit.
“When we consider that only a small amount of gamers actually make in-game purchases, and those that do typically only spend a few dollars, it becomes apparent that there are a small proportion of consumers spending thousands annually on these virtual currencies, who subsidise the game for everyone else,” says report author, Siân Rowlands.
The report also points out how free-to-play casino style games were beginning to see increased profits from in-app purchases, even though users are not playing for real money stakes.
Games such as Slotomania, Poker by Zynga and Texas Poker were seeing a sharp increase in the number of users buying chips and other in-game items, in some instances spending as much as $100 in one transaction, to allow for a lengthy, uninterrupted game play session.
The majority of in-game purchase revenue on tablets will be made in the Far East and China and North America, which will account for over 86% of users’ spend in 2016.
Smartphones will remain the primary device which users make in-app purchases on, with more than $6-billion spent on them in 2016 – over double the amount spent on tablets.