It's safe to say that most people I know have smartphones, tablets, or even both. But I have noticed that more and more kids – and I'm talking young children – have their hands on the technology as well.
There's the dad who passes along his iPhone 6 to hush and entertain a fussy baby, the mom who specifically buys her young children an iPad before they can even read for "educational purposes," and the parents who give their slightly older children their very own mobile phones as a safety precaution.
I was one of those children lucky enough to have a cell phone at a pretty young age (while I was still in middle school) so that my working single mother could have some peace of mind. And like the kids today, I spent most of my time on it playing games.
OK, so back in my childhood, the only game I could play on my Nokia was Snake, whereas today, kids are loaded with options. You know who else seems to be loaded? Their parents — because a new report has found that kids are spending some serious cash on mobile games.
Adults seem to be increasingly comfortable allowing kids to spend time in front of these screens — whether they have their own mobile device or share with family members. And thanks to parental controls, such as Google Play's new family-friendly features, moms and dads can rest assured that their kids aren't being exposed to content that is inappropriate.
In fact, parents are so comfortable with their children mobile gaming that they have spent $1.9 billion in 2015 on apps popular among children. According to SuperData Research, money spent on mobile games for children makes up 7.8 percent of the mobile gaming market worldwide.
The industry firm found that mobile games targeted to children makes up 9.3 percent of the market in the U.S., with $417 million spent on these kids games in the States this year.
The researchers found that stimulation games are the most preferred type of mobile game among kids ages 8 through 11, followed by action, arcade, strategy, puzzle, sports and racing games. When it comes to game quality, these kids are looking for a creative outlet first and foremost – which could be why Minecraft: Pocket Edition is a popular choice – followed by simple and complex gameplay, the social aspect of the game and the graphics.
Interestingly enough, parents have no problem shelling out the money to allow kids to purchase premium games (games with a single cost). Last year, apps that cost money to download made $96 million in the U.S., and an extra $42 million from in-app purchases. SuperData predicts that upfront-cost games will make $100 million in 2015, with an extra $44 million from in-app purchases.
But why not just have kids download the free(mium) games and save the $4.99? The logic is that parents would rather pay a one-time fee instead of being pestered to purchase that extra boost or energy to continue enhancing the gameplay experience. And compared with the cost of console games these days, it makes better sense to cough up $5 instead of $50 to $60 – not including a season pass feature for downloadable content – for the latest titles that come out on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
Still, in my own mobile gaming experience, I tend to check out the free-to-play games before really committing to paying for a game. With so many new titles added to app stores each day, why would I pay for a game? I'm also not one to get in-app purchases — even though, sometimes, I am really tempted. I know someone who spends a decent amount of money while playing Candy Crush, and they serve as a lasting reminder not to take my mobile gaming addiction too far.
But of course freemium games are popular among kids, too — which is great for developers, since they have the highest potential for spending.
According to SuperData, most of the top 10 growing mobile games for kids on iOS devices are free-to-play titles such as ABCmouse, PlayKids - Early Learning and Toca Kitchen 2.
And there's no denying that kids enjoy playing Minecraft. This week, Super League Gaming, the competitive video game league for kids, kicked off its 25-city national tour that will split children into Minecraft teams to build and compete against each other.
How can a parent say no to a Minecraft competition?
It looks like children will continue to become tech-savvy, thanks to the amount of time they spend playing mobile games. They just have to make sure their parent's credit card is always nearby.