report outlining MMO consumer spending in the US and Europe. Americans easily outspent Europeans, handing over $3.8 billion to gaming companies in 2009. A similar report came from CNN today , stating that Chinese consumers spent $5 billion on virtual goods last year. An interesting point to note here is that the article says "Research firms estimate the purchase of virtual goods in China reached roughly $5 billion in 2009 -- about five times more than the United States."
After some extensive calculations and use of several spreadsheets, we here at Massively determined that $5 billion is not, in fact, "five times" $3.8 billion. So on one hand, it's all about who is crunching the numbers and how they're crunching them, but on the other hand, there is no doubt that the Chinese gaming market is huge.
At first glance, the fact that a large percentage of the Chinese population is on a limited income makes it a bit surprising that the MMO market is booming. However, it's this very thing that is helping make it so successful: business models based entirely on microtransactions are the norm there, with individual item purchases hovering in the $1-2 range. Such a small amount makes less of a dent in a thin wallet.
The full story is an interesting look at the Chinese gaming community, and well worth a read.