The surprising numbers behind free games’ in-app purchases

The second quarter of 2020 became the largest yet for mobile app downloads, usage and consumer spending in apps.

With this in mind, the personal finance experts at have analysed data from Google’s Play Store to find out how much free apps could be costing Brits with their in-app purchases.

How many free games have in-app purchases?

They looked at the Top Free Games section of the Google Play store, which contains the 50 most popular free apps organised by download, and then analysed the number of in-app purchases listed on each app’s information page. This analysis reveals:

  • Almost two-thirds (58%) of the games analysed had in-app as part of the gaming experience
  • Despite being ‘free apps’, the average in-app purchase costs £15.51 per item
  • If just 5% of users* who install apps make in-app purchases, the estimated revenue from free apps is an eye-watering £630,655,450.
Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels

How many free children’s apps have in-app purchases?

Alongside mobile gaming apps aimed at adults, the personal finance experts analysed the app categories specifically marketed towards children. We look at the categories ‘Ages up to 5’, ‘Ages 6-8’ and ‘Ages 9-12’ and then analysed the number of in-app purchases listed on each app’s information page. This analysis reveals:

  • 82% of children’s apps offer in-app purchases as part of the gaming experience
  • Despite being ‘free children’s apps’, the average in-app purchase costs £10.08 per item
  • If just 5% of users* who install apps make in-app purchases, the estimated revenue from children’s apps is an eye-watering £457,711,200.

How many users make in-app purchases?

In addition to research into Google’s Play Store, the experts surveyed over 2000 British parents** for their opinions on the app market in order to understand how this might have on younger app users. 

The research revealed:

  • 83% said that they have let their child use apps unattended, with 30% of that group letting that occur often, and 11% letting it happen always
  • Almost half of Brits (45%) have made an in-app purchase by accident, highlighting how easy it can be for anyone using an app to accidentally purchase an item
  • 4 in 5 (80%) British adults have made in-app purchases, with almost the same proportion (79%) admitting they had been put off from making a purchase because of the price. 

* This number is based upon the 2016 study on Global In-App Purchasing Trends, which stated that just 5% of users who install apps make in-app purchases,

** Survey of 2,002 UK parents of children aged 0-12 run on behalf of

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Rahul Roy
I am a computer guy by profession and a sports fanatic by choice.


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