Even in the cloud provider business, we sometimes scratch our heads about how much people are willing to pay for virtual products. A colleague was ranting enviously about a $20 virtual horse offered in World of Warcraft that sold thousands of units in the day hour it was offered. That’s over two million dollars of revenue for a vanity accessory made of brightly colored pixels!
In some ways, this is a generational challenge because I want to see real commodities in return for my cash. Last week, my elementary age daughter did a grueling hour of yard work so that she could purchase some brightly colored phoenix shaped pixels Webkinz. Normally, she’d have to buy a stuffed animal to get the unlock code but now she can bypass the plush closet dweller. When I asked if she wanted the toy that normally accompanies the virtual goods she looked at me with the “Daddy, you are stupid but I love you anyway” look. To her, the virtual item WAS the commodity and the toy was disposable packaging. Upon reflection, I realized that this is a much better economic model than requiring her to purchase landfill fodder transported from sweatshops on the other side of the planet.
But I digress….
I was pumping gas today and noticed that Seven-11 is pimping concessions that are co-marketed with Zyanga. This is not just a Zyanga advertising campaign – it is a fully integrated physical-for-virtual-goods marketing genius. Here’s the deal: if you buy physical food from Seven-11 then I suspect that you get codes to things like unlock virtual food in FarmVille, yoyos in YoVille, and Seven-11’s to rob in MafiaWars. They even appear to target specific foods to individual games – the MafiaWars burrito was simultaneously spooky and inspiring.
I suspect that ultimately these items will only by available by purchasing goods at Seven-11. We’re already seeing applications like Gowalla that hope to bundle physical experiences (visiting specific stores) with coupons (free Starbucks). It’s a logic step to assume that we’ll soon be directed to physical activities (buying a slurpee) to shape virtual experiences (bumping off a crime boss). Since it seems like a marketer dream come true, I’m absolutely certain that you’ll see it coming to a social network near you.
So now I’m watching for the day when having physical lunch with my virtual Facebook friends may earn us some useful currency. I wonder what that currency will be.