New study predicts we'll spend 1.5 billion in social games by 2014

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hey big spenderWhile the real-life economy continues to tank, the virtual economy for games on social networks is booming. A new study from Screen Digest says that FarmVille junkies and their ilk have been fueling this relatively new economy by opening their wallets and buying one-to-10 dollar items with wild abandon. In 2009, social gamers spend $639 million and those numbers are expected to grow to 1.5 billion in 2014.

While playing games on a social network has turned non-gamers into virtual farmers, mobsters, etc, this explosive economy has also come at the expense of the rest of the portal-driven casual games business, which has a big cross-over audience. This must be at least part of the reason casual gaming companies like Big Fish and PopCap have worked to get their games on Facebook over the past year, and I'm sure we'll hear more about this in the not-too-distant future.

The study also predicts that spending on social network games will start to slow down this year, forcing publishers to look at social networks outside of Facebook to expand their empire and -- the part I like the most -- force publishers to create better (as in better quality) games. If that translates into companies releasing more creative games on Facebook, well, that's something I can get behind.
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