If you’re a game developer, one monetization strategy is to offer virtual goods and currencies. But what does the average independent developer know about the details and consequences of creating a whole economy within their game? And say you are a game developer that knows your supply from your demand curves, what are you doing creating purchasable hats for your game characters when you could be creating a high frequency trading algorithms that make you money while you sail around the Caribbean?
To shed some knowledge on the virtual economy, Virtual Economists are a Helsinki-based consulting company that publishes reports and data to help game developers get a better picture of the virtual economic ecosystems.
According to the company, the idea of releasing these accessible reports and datasets came from a big publisher who commissioned a large data collection, in an effort to benchmark their upcoming virtual goods lineup against competition. Virtual Economists realised that smaller developers need the same service but can’t afford to have it custom commissioned. Thus was born the Virtual Goods & Currencies Pricing Report for social games and mobile games. It covers not only pricing but also topics like vanity goods vs. functional goods, durables vs. consumables, and virtual currency packages.
This accessible data makes sense for smaller and independent developers. Competition in the social and mobile games markets is intensifying like crazy, and data and analytics help shine light on the little differences that can have big effects in virtual economies. Currently big publishers have an inherent competitive advantage as they can leverage their learnings and research budget across their portfolio. Virtual Economists’ reports and data products level the playing field by providing access to important data and analysis on monetization tactics, for only a couple hundred dollars.
I was impressed to find the team behind Virtal Economists are actually very qualified from academic and business backgrounds. The team includes Dr Vili Lehdonvirta, who is one of the world’s leading scholars in the area of virtual goods and currencies. He is a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics, an Adjunct Professor of Economic Sociology at the University of Turku, and the principal author of a 2011 World Bank report on virtual economies.
Also on the team is Eino Joas, an experienced virtual economy designer with a degree in economics. Since 2009, he works at CCP Games (EVE Online), where his responsibilities include designing a microtransaction system for CCP’s upcoming MMO-FPS Dust 514 – a groundbreaking concept that introduces a new virtual currency model to the Sony PlayStation network and brings console and PC gamers within the same virtual economy.
Instead of shooting in the dark, it looks like these guys, their reports, and their datasets have a good idea of how you should price your virtual hat. It could mean a lot of money in the long run, and I’m impressed to find this level of specialized talent in the Nordics.
The Social Games Virtual Goods & Currences Pricing Report and Data are available for purchase at the Virtual Economists online store as a digital download. The Mobile Games Virtual Goods & Currencies Pricing Report and Data are available for pre-order and will be delivered in early April.