NBA fans have spent a record $2.7 billion on virtual merchandise and services, according to an ESPN report that cites research firm Gartner.
While the number of people paying for virtual goods and services jumped from $1.9 billion in 2016 to $3.1 billion in 2017, the market is expected to grow by 50 percent over the next three years, according the report.
A number of companies, including Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft, are vying for consumers’ attention.
Gartner analyst Paul Kemsley said that consumers’ preference for digital experiences over physical goods will likely drive more consumers to purchase virtual goods.
The number of consumers who have purchased virtual goods, he said, has increased by 30 percent over last year.
The company expects that to increase to 50 percent by 2021.
Gartsner said that in the first three months of 2017, nearly 5.3 billion people were spending $50 on virtual goods from a total of 1.4 billion people.