Virtual Goods: It’s all about the context

Last June, I had the opportunity talk to theater full of high school Science Fair attendees. At the lunch before hand, the adult sponsors and teachers asked me what I did.

Conversations about Zynga and making money online moved to their complete shock and surprise that anyone would ever buy a virtual good online, especially any virtual good for a game.

As surprised as the adults were, the high school students at the table thought nothing of purchasing a song from iTunes, or buying a really cool sword for their favorite game.

It’s a crazy feeling to be sitting at a lunch table, staring straight into a Grand Canyon of a generation gap like that.

Also tells me that it’s all about context.

Without the context of a “record”, “cassette tape” or even a “CD”, buying a bunch of “bits” that turn into music when you play them on your MP3 player is the natural thing to do.

Without the context of knowing how much better it is to play “World of Warcraft” with the “Uber Sword of Doom”,  it doesn’t make sense to spend real money on a virtual good for a game.

I’ll remember this conversation and the context of this lunch the next time I wonder “why would anyone want to buy that?”.

2 Responses to Virtual Goods: It’s all about the context

  1. David Glenn November 5, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    Blizzard spent most of the last decade fighting real money goods within their products, citing balance and game purity issues. Perhaps Zynga might have had a bit on influence in turning the point for them: http://us.blizzard.com/store/details.xml?id=1100000763

  2. David Glenn November 5, 2009 at 1:10 pm #

    And truly, how is the value of a virtual good any different from say a Picasso painting? The wood, canvas and paint are trivial in material value, so surely the value is solely in the minds of those who choose to accept it as such. When it comes to setting a price, context is everything.

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