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Game On: Energize Your Business with Social Media Games by Jon Radoff

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Chapter 12

Designing for Virtual Goods

In this Chapter, you’ll learn:

  • Who is buying virtual goods, and what they’re buying
  • How to manage the risks of a virtual economy
  • Techniques for introducing and selling virtual goods in your game

In 2010, approximately 13 percent of the online population had bought virtual goods. By the end of 2011, consumers are expected to spend more than $2 billion on these digital products, mostly within games—and by 2013, some analysts see that amount nearly doubling again.

Virtual goods had trivial revenues only a few years ago. Why is it they’ve exploded to this degree? Who buys them, how do they buy them, and how do you go about designing a system to use virtual goods? These are the questions this chapter answers.

Why Do People Buy Virtual Goods?

Virtual goods are purchased by players for the same reason any real-world product is purchased: They have perceived value. Why does this value exist? As pointed out elsewhere in this book, games work because they engage your emotions. Virtual goods exist only in your imaginations, yet they offer advantages that you find emotionally satisfying.

Consider the popularity of pets and cute animals: Even Mafia Wars encourages you to build a menagerie of lions and other exotic, fearsome animals. Some games (FishVille, Pet Society, and Zoo Kingdom) are entirely about collecting pets. Pets pull on your heartstrings, and they’ve been a way for games such as World of Warcraft to add extra dollars to its subscription ...

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