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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 jonmcc33 on 12/31/2009 9:17:16 AM , Rating: 1
It didn't require a $1000 down payment to play that pinball game did it? You need a gaming PC to be able to play that PC game. The pinball game is $0.25 per attempt. Much cheaper.


RE: Disturbing
By ClownPuncher on 12/31/2009 11:24:20 AM , Rating: 2
Pinball machines cost thousands of dollars. You are comparing buying a pc to using a pinball machine, which is not analogous. Technically, buying a netbook to play 3D Pinball is far cheaper than buying a pinball machine.

What a lame tangent though.


RE: Disturbing
By Fritzr on 12/31/2009 8:34:25 PM , Rating: 2
$1000 upfront or $1000 1 quarter at a time. Actually the game console probably costs less than the quarter munchers.

$1000 (laptop)
$30 per month (internet)
$250 (2 years game purchases)
$1000+$720+$250
$1970 (two years of game including hardware)
vs
$20 per week $0.25*20 (plays per day) *5 (days per week)
104*20
$2080 (2 years of quarter muncher)

Of course quarter munchers today are often asking $0.50 to $1 per play, including the pinballs. Back in the day pinball was 3 plays per quarter.

Numbers are arbitrary. I know I used to spend $10+ per session getting to where I could set high scores on Centipede & Donkey Kong at the local pizza parlor. Nowadays I relax with a laptop and a free to play game server that offers ingame weapons, equipment and hard to get quest items for sale on their website. There are a few power items and nice appearance items that are only available from the shop, but they are also available to cheapskates as prizes for ingame events. Unlike WoW & many others, the installation package is a free download.

You'll find it somewhere in this list :P
http://www.mmorpg.com/


"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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