The "freemium" gaming model has remained afloat thanks to commuters' downtime, and an exclusive group of big in-app spenders.
According to a new report from mobile analytics firm Swrve, a measly 0.15 per cent of all mobile players account for half of the monthly revenue earned from in-game purchases.
That breaks down to 50 per cent of revenue collected from the top 10 per cent of people making purchases—a miniscule piece of the possible money-making pie.
"It's a given that the vast majority of freemium games players don't actually spend money at all," the report said, pointing out that last month, only 1.5 per cent of active players surveyed made any in-app purchase at all.
So, don't feel bad if you're still slugging along, unwilling to pony up a few pence for enough extra lives to push through to the next level. You're just one of a vast majority who deliver no revenue to mobile developers.
Even those big spenders, or "whales" in industry terms, appear to be cautious with their hard-earned cash. Swrve suggested that a majority of that top 10 per cent spend about £9.12 per month; calculating an average 2.57 purchases per month, that averages out to a value of £3.55.
"What's interesting is that while many consider the freemium model to be successful, there is still surprisingly little data relating to exactly how consumers interact with freemium games," Swrve CEO Hugh Reynolds said in a statement. "We have aggregated data from across our system to finally lift the lid on what goes on after install — and where the money is made."
It appears to be made within the first 24 hours after purchase, the company's report said, adding that the second in-app investment is often made in the next two hours. More than half of players go on to make a repeat purchase within two weeks, while less than 14 per cent continue that pattern in the days after.
"They are probably on their way to membership of our top 10 per cent," Swrve said.
According to the analytics group—which said that "great care should be taken when acquiring users to ensure they are, as much as possible, in the subset of 'spenders'"—the folks developers should really target are the 13 per cent who make five or more purchases a month.
Swrve gathered data from more than 10 million players of freemium games during January 2014.