Disclosure: I’m involved with an organization that has virtual goods and currency — and yes, you can exchange real money for virtual goods in it.
The virtual economy is heating up. GigaOm reports that Facebook Could Make $250M From Virtual Goods Next Year; make money from stuff that isn’t tangible. Stuff you can’t hold in your hands. Yet, the concept of virtual isn’t really new, it’s really just a new label applied to an ancient concept.
It is kind of interesting, when you think of it. For the vast majority of human history, ideas used to be the only type of non-physical ‘object’ that people would pay money for — ideas manifested as stories, concepts, music, inventions, etc.
Someone had to come up with the idea. And if it was good, then someone paid for that idea.
Then, the idea had to be transformed into reality — a play, a symphony, a building perhaps. The idea becomes physical (for a short time if you’re witnessing a performance). But still you have the physical manifestation of something created in the mind of someone.
Today, we have the virtual manifestation of ideas. Virtual in that when they manifest, they exist only in the medium they were designed for — a Farmville farm lovingly tended and nurtured by someone using a keyboard and mouse. Or an Elvish Archer who’s virtual skills and abilities have been carefully selected and honed.
Today’s virtual goods economy is wonderful, exciting, and offers huge new opportunities that didn’t exist before — from the swetshop goldfarmer to the (mobile-device-app-store) developer– doing work that has no physical manifestation can be both a pastime and a career.
But it shouldn’t surprise us that people and organizations can make money in this way — because we’ve been doing it for thousands of years. Only this medium is new.
This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.