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Facebook Gamers Are Frequent Players

About 90 percent of fans of Zynga Game Network's "FarmVille"—and games made by other providers offered on Facebook—return daily to play one game or another, according to a survey.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they play once a day, while a stunning 62 percent play multiple times daily, researcher Inside Network said in the survey, which was just released today. "FarmVille" was the most popular game, with more than half of respondents saying they play it every day.

The gamers have proven lucrative for Zynga, which profits from selling virtual goods used in its games. The San Francisco-based company may generate more than $450 million this year, two people briefed on its financials said in April.

The more time people spend on such games as "FarmVille," the harder it is for them to switch to a different diversion, said Atul Bagga, an analyst at ThinkEquity. "If you are playing games you like and you have invested dollars in it, you start becoming more attached to your avatar, more attached to your place," Bagga says. "The barrier for those guys defecting from "FarmVille" is much higher." The game gets 64 million monthly active users, according to Inside Social Games data.

tiny proportion spends the most money

Consumers surveyed by Inside Network also displayed loyalty as to which games drew their spending for virtual goods. Some 84 percent who paid more than $25 said they had done so for only one game on Facebook. About 15 percent who spent in excess of $25 had invested in two games.

Inside Network surveyed 1,800 people who said they play social games on Facebook. The findings suggest that a small portion of game players on the social networking site generate a majority of the spending on virtual goods, says Inside Network's Justin Smith, who co-wrote the report. "The top 10 percent or so of the people who spend are spending 10 to 20 times more than what most other people are spending," Smith said.

Consumers in the U.S. will spend $1.6 billion this year on virtual goods, according to ThinkEquity. The survey's results may be skewed to favor more active users, said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities. "I am not surprised that 90 percent of the people who took the time to respond to a survey that started with 'only answer if you play social games' actually play every day," Pachter said in an e-mail. "It's like asking people who visit a racetrack how often they bet on races."

MacMillan is a reporter for Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Businessweek in San Francisco.

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