The economy is starting to chug along again, although lately the stock market has had such big ups and downs. Many fellow retailers have been having a hard time selling merchandise at their stores and are looking forward to a better year mid-year 2010. When I say retailers I mean real stores with real merchandise that buyers can touch and feel.

WHY do I expound on “real” merchandise you ask? Well, let me share this with you and maybe you’ll be as crazed as I was after I heard this…

Social games have become a new trend on the internet. This new industry is sucking in staggering amounts of money. In one recent 30-day span, Playfish, a creator of social games sold for $400 million. Playdom, another game company raised $43 million in financing, while another, Zynga raised $180 million. Many are equating this trend to something larger than the dot com trend back in the 90’s.

Companies like Playfish can develop a game for under $100,000 and complete it in just a few weeks. These virtual games don’t even have to fight for shelf space. What makes me insane is where the bulk of the social-gaming revenue comes from: the sale of virtual goods. The virtual goods are digital stuff that doesn’t actually exist.

While the games are free, users have countless opportunities to buy stuff: Playfish says it sells 60 million items a day, from $14 engagement rings to bacon sandwiches that cost a few cents. The goodies make it easier to advance in the game.

Imagine that…people are shopping and they are spending… ON MAKE-BELIEVE MERCHANDISE! How sad is that? Well, sad to the tune of $75 million in sales for 2009 that could double this year! For fake bacon sandwiches and engagement rings for a game!!

Is it just me? Have I gone insane? How tempting would it be for us retailers to post signs in our stores offering “virtual” jewelry — just $29.95 for a pretend ring! And here we have these venture capitalists chasing these gaming companies to throw money into them. Then you have the players willing to spend real dollars for birthday parties for a digital pussycat! Can you say $75 million? I think we’re in the wrong business!

Have you heard of this? Are you a gamer? A retailer? Blog with me and let me know what you think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *