Facebook could see a record US$500 million in revenue this year, fueled by a market of virtual goods, where users are willing to pay for points to buy things like imaginary flowers, food for their online pets and virtual poker chips they will never be able to cash out.
The Facebook virtual economy is rapidly growing and evolving to include more complex, graphic-rich games, according to companies who facilitate payments for Facebook applications.
It's already happening in full force in China. A Chinese social network called Tencat made more than a billion dollars in revenue last year, primarily through selling virtual goods.
Spare Change CEO Mark Rose, whose company handles direct payments for Facebook applications, discussed the virtual goods industry within Facebook with The Standard. According to Rose, Facebook games generating the most revenue include role-playing games such as Mob Wars, casino and card games such as poker, and games that build up a virtual world, such as YoVille.
But this is changing, said Jason Bailey, the CEO of Super Rewards, a company that helps developers integrate offers from advertisers and direct payments into their games.
"As the platform evolves we are seeing more and more immersive environments, mini-worlds of the calibre we commonly see...in console games," he told The Standard.
Outside of the gaming realm, payment providers told The Standard that virtual gift applications and dating applications also do fairly well. However, it is "nothing" compared to gaming revenues, Bailey said.