$335,000 For Virtual Goods!?
A new world record has been set for most expensive virtual goods transaction. Again, it's the MMO "Entropia" beating its own record, with a player purchasing several virtual areas of the game from another player for $335,000. Previously "Entropia" made headlines for the auction of a virtual space nightclub for $330,000. The amounts are somewhat less startling when it is noted that the game has a transfer rate between in-game currency and real money. Still, this new record is a nice reminder of how high virtual goods are valued.
There is substantial money in the virtual good market. When Blizzard opened up a direct commerce storefront for in-game goods, it was rumored to have made over $2 million in the first four hours. Key to note: the items being purchased had no impact on the gameplay beyond aesthetics.
Countless examples have surfaced in the past 18 months highlighting how highly core-gamers value virtual items. We've also just started to see brands engaging with the virtual goods market in the past year. Some of them are even engaging out of game.
In concert with the new "Black Ops" game release, Chrysler released a limited edition Jeep Wrangler themed around the game. It is extremely exciting to see a cross-over happening in reverse here in the U.S. -- something I've been pining for since 2007. I really hope that the limited edition is a success and we'll see similar endeavors in the future.
Stepping back for a moment, I'd like to nod my head to a note of caution raised by Randy Shaffer, one of the quite-smart folks at Microsoft and a member of my recent panel at OMMA Publish: Entertainment. Before the session began, we were talking about this very topic, and he raised the very valid point that an excess of virtual goods provided free or as part of an incentive by brands can (1) undermine a direct commerce market for virtual goods, and (2) dilute the incentive for concurrent and future programs.
So, looking at the overall market trends, I highly recommend that brands targeting core -gamers consider the potential of programs involving virtual goods, or the opportunity to leverage game sponsorships in actual product branding. But before jumping in headfirst, take a look at the ecosystem you're about to enter and make sure the initiative will stand out. If that ecosystem isn't right, don't drop the idea entirely. Instead, put it on the back burner and put your feelers out for the ecosystem that will be the right fit.