Ever paid to extend or enhance a free-to-play digital game? A new study from market researcher NPD Group says you’re not alone.

The NPD report, Insights into the Freemium Games Market, says four out of ten players have shelled out real cash if the game had additional features that could be purchased. Those most likely to play freemium games were women, but NPD says they were less likely to pay for an upgrade than men.

Timing, apparently, is everything: “The majority of freemium gamers who opt to pay to upgrade their experience do so within the first month of playing a particular game,” states NPD’s Anita Frazier, highlighting the importance of features that drive players to pull out their wallets.

Freemium models are taking hold even among long-standing game franchises, with Seattle’s PopCap (now part of Electronic Arts) introducing its first such title, the freemium Bejeweled Blitz, last year.

Previously: PopCap rejiggers Bejewled lineup with its first freemium game

Frank Catalano is a regular GeekWire columnist helping with vacation fill-in duty this week. You can follow Frank on Twitter @FrankCatalano.

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