Business modelsVirtual Worlds

Some thinking on virtual goods

By December 18, 2008 March 11th, 2009 3 Comments

Susan Wu gave a talk on virtual goods at Leweb last week.  I have been meaning to post the following excerpts from her talk since then.

Regular readers will know how much I like frameworks.  Thanks to Susan, we now have one for virtual goods.  For her there are three types:

  • Decorative – e.g. avatar dressing
  • Functional – e.g. buying user names
  • Behavioural – e.g. gifts for flirting

‘Virtual goods’ is a sufficiently general term that it is confusing for many people, and I like this framework for the way it demystifies by making it obvious which type is going to be applicable for which site and/or which part of which site.  For example options to buy gifts for flirting are going to perform best when profile surfing or messaging, whereas buying stuff for your avatar will work best in game oriented scenarios.

Secondly she listed three benefits that people derive from virtual goods:

  • The receiver has the emotional benefits of receiving a gift – not dis-similar in Susan’s eyes to receiving a real gift.  I would agree with that
  • The receiver also gets a ‘trophy’ that sits on their profile
  • The sender has the pleasure of making the gift

The third thing she said that I wanted to reproduce was a piece of advice:

Find ways to capture the passion of verbs that people are already doing on your site [apologies if I got the precise wording wrong]

One of the most successful virtual goods companies in Europe is Flirtomatic and they do this brilliantly.  People are on the site to (you guessed it) – flirt.  And they sell virtual goods that enhance that activity.  Flirting has more meaning if you give someone a virtual heart as well as (or instead of) sending a message.

We have recently launched virtual goods on WAYN which will be aligned around one of the core use cases on the site – meeting new people.  You can find more details towards the end of this post on the WAYN site which details the release which went live the weekend before last.