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Gamers are spending billions on virtual goods in the U.S.

When a lot of people think of gamers, they automatically think of mostly male teens who sit around a game console or computer screen all day playing alone. The reality is that the average gamers today are in their 30's and have a significant disposable income to support the expensive hobby. More and more women are also becoming gamers.

A new study recently found that women tend to be more hardcore gamers than men are, but they also tend to lie about how much time they spend playing games. More and more people are also playing games that are closely tied to social networks like MySpace and Facebook.

These gamers often report that they play the games not so much for the game itself, but to interact with friends and family. The virtual economy that was created to cater to the goods that many of these social games sell is booming. BBC News reports that the virtual economy in the U.S. is set to make billions selling goods that don’t really exist. The sale of virtual goods is one of the hottest trends in technology and is showing no signs of letting up.

Venture Capitalist Jeremy Liew said, "This [virtual goods] is just an exploding part of the gaming business right now. It is the most exciting area in gaming."

Liew's company Lightspeed Venture Partners has invested about $10 million in virtual goods so far. He said, "We have seen companies go from nothing in the last 18-24 months to tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue."

Virtual goods like fertilizer and seeds in farming games are big sellers and there are a myriad of other games that sell virtual goods to players seeking to get ahead. Social gaming firm Playfish says that virtual goods are key to its success.

Playfish's Tom Sarris told BBC News, "Virtual items within the Playfish games are the centre point of the way in which Playfish derives its revenue." He continued saying, "We have two different revenue models. The primary is the sale of virtual goods and the second is in-game advertising, but that is a very minor aspect at this stage."

Liew says that making the lion's share of revenue from digital goods is very common for social gaming companies. He says that virtual goods often make up 90-95% of the revenue for the game developers. Virtual goods and the games that sell them are attracting women in increasing numbers and the players don’t consider themselves to be average gamers.

Social gamer Emma Cox told BBC News she only plays to keep in contact with friends and family. She said, "I am not a traditional gamer. I don't buy console games or go out and spend $40 on a game for my PlayStation." She continued saying, "I am playing online games for a different reason and it's instant gratification, playing with friends, showing off to others and have them see all the virtual goods you have bought for yourself and even for them."

Cox and other players like her buy things like digital birthday cards, bottles of digital champagne, seeds and fertilizer, and other items for virtual games. Gamers and the game firms behind the popular titles liken the buying of digital goods to renting movies. Cox said, "The way we look at it is it's no different from paying money to go and see a movie or rent a DVD. What you are paying for is the experience and that notion of entertainment."

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RE: Disturbing
By cmdrdredd on 12/30/2009 10:19:12 PM , Rating: 4
People have been, are now, and will always be responsible and welcome to spend THEIR money however they want to. If they want to buy DLC for a game that's their business.

RE: Disturbing
By omnicronx on 12/31/2009 1:31:34 AM , Rating: 2
Didnt anyone learn anything from the financial crisis? The wrongdoings of the financial sector was only a tiny piece of the puzzle, as a result of it crumbling, it exposed the great weakness that is consumer overspending. We already have enough to worry about, do we really need to be spending money on items that don't even exist? We are talking the masses here, not just a bunch of kids selling their diablo items =P

RE: Disturbing
By someguy123 on 12/31/2009 3:44:58 AM , Rating: 3
I think it exposed executive overspending and legislation abuse more than consumer overspending.

RE: Disturbing
By therealnickdanger on 1/4/2010 9:00:11 AM , Rating: 2
Executives and legislators are consumers too. Ultimately, it all comes down to the poor financial decisions of everyone involved. Trying to pin the majority of blame on any one party is like a dog chasing its tail.

If you have debt - ANY debt - then you're part of the problem. Make 2010 the year that you choose to get out of debt - or at least limit your debt to a single home mortgage... one that you can actually afford, not what the government or bank tells you that you can afford. If people in this country really wanted to punch "big business" in the face and kick "big brother" in the balls, they would focus on being out of debt. Debt is the ONE thing that both can hold over you, keeping you a slave to the system... to the MATRIX! haha

2010, debt free, baby!

RE: Disturbing
By Drag0nFire on 12/31/2009 11:24:59 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, we just pay for their healthcare when they are broke and jobless...

Seriously, though, people need to change their expectations. People are saving nothing or taking on credit card debt while buying new cars, big screen tvs, and paying iphone bills. What can they expect when they reach retirement age?

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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