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Biggest sellers in the virtual world

Customization and game enhancements are likely candidates for virtual goods. Real world revenues for online goods continue to grow.

Virtual cupcake
Virtual cupcake Viximo

Virtual goods are providing very high-margin sales for many internet companies. According to, Chinese portal Tencent pulled in nearly $1 billion last year from the sale of virtual goods, while Facebook earns between $50 million and $100 million (your mileage may vary on these estimates). Recently Hi5 Networks made the move to include far more virtual goods as part of its social-networking site.

Obviously every site is a bit different, but there are two common threads of items that people seem ready to pay for:

  1. Customization of the environment -- page decorations and other things that provide some kind of status in the game
  2. Enhancements to games -- if you can't beat them, you can just pay for items

Of course, there are many other possibilities--virtual gifts play a big role in Facebooks' revenue and I believe there is a huge market for goods such as baseball cards and other tradeable real-world/virtual world crossovers.

Looking at three of the top virtual goods companies, Rory Maher outlined how they make money.

Premium instant messaging
Pet penguins
Page decorations

Weapons & adornment for cars
Advancement in the game

Poker chips
Mystery crates
Home improvements
Flame throwers

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