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Virtual-goods resellers on the rise

As the sales of virtual goods grow, so do the people who wish they had their real money back in their pocket. A new report confirms that gamers are reselling virtual goods for real cash.

Gamers are not just making purchases to enhance their gaming experience but also selling virtual assets to other players, according to new research from video game market research firm VGMarket.

Sales of virtual goods are expected to reach $1 billion this year and already generate near $4 billion annually in China. But there are some challenges, primarily the fact that once you convert your real money to virtual cash you can't readily get the dough back out.

The research revealed that in-game currency is the most frequently sold digital good from player to player and that two out of three sellers sold in-game currency in the last 12 months, earning a median of $22. PlaySpan, a provider of monetization and payment solutions for games and virtual worlds and sponsor of the research, considers that to be good news as its platform enables game developers to provide player to player marketplaces for their players. In addition, the PlaySpan Marketplace currently provides a secondary market for IMVU players to buy and sell goods as well.

One out of two sellers made a sale in a social network game over the last 12 months and earned a median of $50, while one out of four sellers made a sale in a free-to-play game over the last 12 months, with their median earning being $98, or nearly double that on social networks.

Eric Hartness, chief marketing officer at PlaySpan, told me that the secondary market is a boon for games, adding value, real and perceived, to all players by associating a real world dollar value on their playing time, game accounts, and digital items.

Hartness believes that the secondary market increases primary market sales because it provides a means for all players to generate money. He also said that more players would buy and sell digital items if they were confident it was safe and within the game's terms of service.

Virtual-good resellers
Virtual-good resellers PlaySpan/VGMarket

I'm not terribly surprised that people who purchase in-game currency in free-to-play games end up looking for a way to cash-out of the game at some point--even at pennies on the dollar, provided they are real pennies and not metaphysical manifestations.