Virtual Goods and Real Money

Posted on by

A player in EVE Online, a MMORPG that features spaceships, lost over $1,000 worth of ingame items. His ship got destroyed while he was transporting PLEX. PLEX is one of a number of things (like a more open PVP system and Iceland) that make EVE Online unique. PLEX is an in-game item that can be bought for real money. When used, it gives the player 30 days of game time. Because it exists ingame, it is also possible to trade it for virtual currency (Isk), ostensibly giving Isk a real world value.

Since MMORPGs and virtual worlds arrived, there have always been people willing to spend money for virtual goods. Most of the time this is against the terms of the world, with a few notable exceptions. There are a growing number of games that have embraced microtransactions, including Guild Wars and Farmville. In fact the Free2Play MMORPG market is based on this.

Facebook closed their gift shop a while ago. It was making money, and it certainly proved that Facebook users were prepared to buy pixels long before Zynga was around. The closure of the gift shop was not a step backwards. Facebook is doing more now than ever to make it easy for people to get Facebook Credits to spend, they can even be bought as a gift card in real life.

People are willing to spend real money on virtual goods, and Facebook will profit from expanding the market for Facebook Credits. As a platform accessible through multiple devices Facebook is well placed to facilitate a virtual economy based on games, virtual and real goods purchased online with their currency.

2 responses to “Virtual Goods and Real Money”

  1. I find that really all very interesting. I say that from the point of view of someone who doesn’t play virtual games – no PlayStation, Xbox, PC games, and definitely no Farmville.

    Also, I’ve paid for virtual things on the internet before, too. Like ebooks and other tools, for example. Sure, I don’t get a physical product, but it’s justified by what it provides – a service, or some new knowledge.

    But I just don’t think I’d ever bring myself to sending someone a virtual 16 x 16 pixel birthday cake… order a real one at the local store and have it delivered!

    But time are ‘a changing, and a lot of the work that these larger big guys are doing are quite often just experiments. So I do look forward to how they will all piece it together and see what they continue to come up with.

    • Anthony says:

      It is a very interesting subject. Like you mentioned, there is already a market for ebooks, music and other forms of media.

      There is one interesting difference between digital media like the examples above and content tied to a platform like ingame items and facebook content. Downloaded content is not tied to the store, but facebook credits and what you buy with them cease to have value if facebook goes away or the objects are no longer supported.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *