More than one in ten Americans have purchased virtual goods in the last 12 months, according to a new study by virtual goods marketplace playspan and research and consultancy firm Frank N. Magid Associates, based on a survey of nearly 2,000 Americans. The 12 percent of Americans who bought virtual goods in the last year contributed to a market that is estimated to be worth $200-250 million in the U.S. , over $1 billion worldwide, and projected to be worth $17.3 billion by 2015. Almost half of virtual good purchases (46 percent) are made by users of virtual worlds.

Of the people surveyed who could recall their purchase totals, on average they spent around $30 dollars last year on virtual goods.

“The fact that lots of people are reaching into their pocket to buy virtual goods is impressive, but even more impressive is that some of those consumers are spending considerable dollars,” said Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors.

According to the virtual worlds consultancy K Zero, global virtual world growth increased 38.6 percent from Q1, reaching 579 million in Q2.

“As this market grows . . . the majority of consumers will continue to spend $50 or more on virtual goods every year, and this will grow to be a multi-billion dollar market,” Vorhaus said.

According to Second Life expert Wagner James Au, further discussion with Magid revealed their figures indicate that roughly one in eight Americans are registered in virtual worlds.

For those interested in the subject, Victor Keegan of the Guardian wrote a nice analysis of the virtual worlds market yesterday, which I wholly recommend reading if you’re interested in further exploring the ecosystem.

By Mark Alvarez