Virtual Goods in Games
Virtual goods, non-physical objects that are purchased for use in online communities or online games, are a very popular revenue stream for games. Whether it’s a hardcore MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), you play for hours at a time or a casual game that players play on the bus ride to work; virtual goods can generate some extra cash. Using the freemium business model, where basic features are given for free and money is charged for extra features, for games has become very popular because of the success of virtual good. According to an annual report Facebook filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, approximately 27 million users purchased virtual goods using Facebook payments in 2012. Let’s take a look at a few examples of how some of the most popular games are utilizing the concept of virtual goods:

1-In-Game Perks – These are the items that player purchase to give them an edge when playing the game. For example players can buy extra lives, extra ammunition, better weapons, extra time on the level timer, etc. These are great tools to help players feel extra powerful in-game. But game creators have to be smart and strategic when adding in-game perks to their games. In multiplayer games for example (mainly player vs. player games), these perks are sometimes viewed as an unfair advantage (almost seen as cheating) since they affect the balance of the game. People tend to take it personally if they lose because the other player is using a paid perk.

2-Avatar Customizables – Some games have avatars (the player’s in-game character) and these avatars are usually very customizable. Players tend to enjoy making their avatars their own. That’s why selling ways to further customize an avatar is a popular virtual good. This typically works well when players work hard to level up their characters and feel a personal attachment to them. Whether it’s that funky blue jacket or a new hair style for their digital selves, players don’t mind coughing up that green to become digitally cooler (provided they feel that special connection with their avatars of course). Some games go as far as charging the players when they want to rename their avatars. This concept doesn’t work very well when the gameplay doesn’t involve seeing the avatar all the time. If you think about it, it’s pointless to get those new shoes if you won’t get to see them while you play.

3-  More Gameplay – Getting players hooked before asking for money is a great idea for building a big user base. If the game is addictive enough, players are willing to pay for extra levels. This concept is the same as giving a free trial of your game except that it doesn’t feel as much like a “demo” to the players. Instead it feels like paying for extra content. You can also get more creative with the way you present the extra levels. For example you can split the levels up into different “paths” the players can follow, and have them decide how they want to progress in the game (I guess that’s similar to expansion packs in concept). Then maybe they can go back and go through a different path.

4-In-Game Currency – Gold, dollars, coins, simoleons or any other awesome name you can come up with can work for in-game currency. There are two ways of getting in-game currency; the player either plays long enough to earn that currency through beating and winning certain obstacles, or he/she can just buy that currency with real money. Once the player has the in-game currency he/she can use it to buy virtual goods. Some games though, separate in-game currency and real money for buying virtual goods. They restrict some virtual goods to real money only, which usually are the really cool and awesome goods.

These are just a few examples of virtual goods that you can use to generate extra revenue from your game. Picking which ones to use really depends on the game you’re developing. Sometimes certain virtual goods ruin the game experience so adding everything might not be the best idea. For social games, rewarding players for inviting their friends by giving them free virtual goods is also a good way to help your game spread. Interestingly enough, for very popular games some players buy each other virtual goods as gifts for real occasions. Wouldn’t it be nice if your game got to that point?

Post by: Faris Issa

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Author Faris Issa

Senior Web Developer

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