Buying and Selling Stuff That Doesn’t Exist

I forget where I first read about it, but Stanford recently hosted the first Virtual Good Summit. My initial reaction to this news went something like “How farcical yet fascinating!”

The Virtual Goods Summit is a one day conference focused on the emerging market opportunity for virtual goods and economies. Once restricted to the world of online gaming, virtual goods and currencies are beginning to influence the development of social networks, community sites, and many other new and exciting markets.

Why not? I haven’t actually bought stuff in Facebook or World of Warcraft but it’s probably only a matter of time. After all, Capulet regularly buys bits from services like Blinksale, Campaign Monitor and Harvest. The Facebook gift flower or ninja is as much a service as online time tracking, isn’t it?

Conference co-producer Susan Wu wrote a very readable introduction to the space on Tech Crunch:

The Chinese farmers value their time much less than American players. This isn’t a moral statement, it’s just one of economic fact. While it might take both players 60 hours to progress a character up to level 40, the opportunity cost for the American player could be $900 (60 hours * $15/hr,) whereas the opportunity cost for the Chinese player could be $30 (60 hours * $.50/hr). The American player is willing to pay up to $900 for a level 40 character, creating profit opportunities for the Chinese player.

Joey Seiler took remarkably legible notes from a bunch of the sessions, which I’ve enjoyed reading. The best way to find them all is probably via this Google search.

1 comment

  1. Well consider the futures markets: Buying and selling nothings that will hopefully become somethings. Oil works that way, as do any number of goods that require time to grow or mature or process before they hit the market.

    Then consider: movie theatres sell the idea of a distraction or entertainment. We ride roller-coasters for a completely ephemeral high. Some of our most expensive products are ideas, without physical form.

    What the gold farmers are selling is ideas, and why not?

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