Virtual goods sales have become a significant portion of social networks’ revenues and are a growing revenue contributor for mobile apps as well. Virtual goods have become a very competitive space, and game developers are seeking out new ways to lure potential gamers. Mobile is an increasing component of this strategy, as mobile game play is on the rise. Cross-platform play is also an emerging trend as the worlds of social and mobile gaming are becoming more interconnected.
As the virtual goods market continues to evolve, the most significant disruptive factor is likely to be virtual currencies. Facebook has revolutionized the virtual goods market by introducing a virtual currency that is not game-specific but platform-specific. This was a first step toward developing a universal virtual currency, but it is anticipated this will be pushed even further where virtual currencies could be used across platforms or even outside the sphere of virtual goods. A virtual currency that can be traded between individuals and outside a platform holds infinitely more value than a platform-specific currency. Virtual currency is also trending toward the nonvirtual, with the potential for digital goods and service purchases.
While these transformative issues are emerging in the virtual goods market, we see short-term growth occurring at a steady pace. The sale of virtual goods within social gaming will increase from $3 billion worldwide in 2011 to $4.1 billion in 2016. Similarly mobile-apps-based gaming will drive global virtual goods sales to $4.3 billion by 2016, up from $2.4 billion in 2011.