Consumers might enjoy taking on alternate personalities when they join virtual worlds. And they’ll also spend hours playing massively multi-​player online games (MMOGs) with strangers. But when they want to purchase something fun and inexpensive in these fantasy sessions,  they often turn to well-​known brands.

Marketers are increasingly making their branded goods available in social gaming environments. As consumers play these games, they’re paying for virtual goods and driving up revenues for social gaming companies. eMarketer analysts, in looking at the connected-​PC environment only, predict the following value for the virtual goods industry:

  • 2010 $510 million
  • 2011 $653 million
  • 2012 $792 million

While social gaming companies may not charge a player for a session, they can typically count on virtual goods revenue. A study published last year by Flurry suggested that monthly average revenue per user amounted to $7.80. This far exceeds the ad revenue earned from marketers which is about $1.20 per month per user. According to PayPal, a facilitator of online payments,  about 12 million consumers buy virtual goods every month in the U.S. Often, the purchases are all about online currency. When consumers engage with MMOGs, about half of the virtual currency purchases made are between $10 and $50. But other virtual goods purchases include branded organic blueberries or apparel.

Paul Verna, eMarketer senior analyst, says that marketers of branded goods have “grasped this phenomenon and inserted their brands into a variety of games in creative ways.” Consumers may not necessarily be purchasing the branded virtual goods but they'll certainly see them and engage with them. And, as consumers shift their game-​playing tendencies to mobile devices, the numbers projected by eMarketer are apt to increase significantly.

[Sources: Marketers Are On Board with Virtual Goods. Emarketer​.com. 27 Jul. 2011. Web. 9 Aug. 2011; Takahasi, Dean. PayPal: Monthly Users. VentureBeat​.com. 1 Aug. 2011. Web. 9 Aug. 2011]]
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.