It’s easy to say that purchasing anything, even virtual goods, is driven by money. It’s almost a nonsense statement; of course money is tied into the buying spree that’s happening in social gaming, mobile apps, and virtual merchandise. Digging deeper, we can see that money is driving it, but it’s not the direct sales that are making it popular.
It’s the advertising spends that are the real end-game.
Companies like Zynga (and as a result, Facebook) make a lot of money by getting people hooked on games and offering them ways to purchase better “goods” for their games. People can accelerate virtual time, get exclusive virtual goods, and enhance their overall virtual gaming experience by making purchases. That form of spending money is here and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
What has received less attention (for now) is advertising in the virtual marketplace. It’s not just about having your virtual crops growing faster. It’s about being exposed to real-life brands while in the game. Advertising on mobile apps and social games is on the verge of being very lucrative for the app and game providers as well as being effective for the advertisers.
It’s where more people are spending more of their time. Advertisers want to be in front of as many eyeballs as possible.
Over the coming months, we will see a spike in mobile and virtual world advertising. The hook is already in so many people and the revenues are already rolling in. The natural progression towards advertising as an additional (and eventually a primary) revenue source is already happening.
Just as newspapers make made money by selling subscriptions and getting ads purchased, so too will virtual venues grow as an advertising medium.