The virtual dollar – the future of web monetization?

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money-sepiaAccording to a survey by the market analyst firm Frank N. Magid, the market for virtual goods will grow in 2009 to a volume of 1,8 mio. dollars. One out of ten Americans has spent real money in return for virtual goods in 2008. And we are not talking about pennies like in the advertising industry. The people that have spend money for virtual goods said they have invested up to 100 US dollars or more. The average invest is somewhere at 30 US dollars.

No surprise: The group around ‚Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games‘ (MMORPG) is the most willing target group for virtual goods. Nearly half of this group of ‚gamers‘ spent money for levels or items. Another quite obvious target group is the iphone user who spends money for apps (28%) and the members of social networks (27%).

One of the biggest success stories for virtual goods is probably China and their popular social network Tencent’s which has a special focus on virtual goods and its power on monetization. And if we look at the gaming industry, we can also find Internet Gaming Entertainment that is doing well in offering virtual goods services to collect and receive new game levels and items.

If it is Facebook selling virtual presents like nice flowers, beer glasses or kisses in the format of an icon for one dollar. Or let’s say the social network Hi5 with their casual games section. Money becomes virtual coins and you can easily spend it for a game of dart or for a video wall in your own virtual room on Smeet. Or let’s think about Second Life that is selling virtual ground in a virtual world for real hard dollars and some years ago made Ailin Gräf rich. She became a real-estate tycoon on Second Life – and thus, she became rich in the offline world.

Spot On!
This all reminds me of the good old Tamagotchi days. We were taking care of and feeding virtual animals in order to keep them alive. I am asking myself if this is a possible business model for social networks. You can buy your personalized virtual Tamagotchi and place that on your Facebook account, your iphone or your HTC mobile. So, everybody in your social network can see how you care about your ‚best friend‘ – and how open you are to the virtual dollar…

Hey, why don’t we have that virtual Tamagotchi already?

Let me know how you see the future of virtual goods. And may be you want to share some ideas that would be really thrilling for companies to think about. Curious what will be coming up with…

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