Sunday, 9 May 2010

Virtual Shopping

An article by Guest Contributor, Miidasu

The real life economy may be undergoing a slow, torturous recovery, but virtual world economies are thriving. Well, that’s not entirely true. Many worlds died in the last few months:, Vivaty, and Metaplace. Still, Second Life announced that their virtual economy hit a high in the first quarter of 2010. IMVU is also looking at the new year optimistically, according to Tech Crunch. Even social games like Farmville are hitting the big bucks.

Virtual worlds reflect the real world in many aspects (they don't call them virtual "worlds" for no reason). In particular, user-generated virtual economies are similar to the globalized capitalist system. They rely on creative entrepreneurs to run businesses, for creators to supply and buyers to demand.

The question I have is why is there demand? Granted I am not in college anymore; don't mistake this as some sort of academic inquiry. I am just an intrigued metaverse lover. I understand the desire to create items, but purchasing items with money I can use for a real material object? What's the reason for it?
What is the appeal of virtual goods? Understandably, there are functional goods that increase performance, give more features and such. However, what entices people to purchase the aesthetic goods, like clothing, furniture, or even poses, with money they can use for real world items.

There are plenty of academic studies on why people purchase virtual goods, features, performance enhancements. Maybe I am way behind on my academic reading, but I am surprised that I have not seen the subject of accessibility included in some articles.

The Information Age is known for accessibility. I can get information in seconds, download musics and movies in minutes, in short, get what I want when I want it. We are a generation that craves instant gratification--we want to achieve goals now, and for short-term satisfaction. Case and point: instant tea versus a fresh brew, microwaves versus cooking, movies versus books, and so on. In the same way, virtual goods are easily accessible. A massive dose of instant-gratification at the tip of your fingers.

Getting around a few worlds can be difficult,  but shopping for clothes and other items is increasingly easy. IMVU and Frenzoo have shops that are easy to navigate. Trying on items is available without demos, the details are listed in one place, and there is no transferring of products.

Shopping in Second Life is more difficult, especially for those who don't know how the world works. Still,  Second life is fun because it is the most interactive shopping I have experienced, at least in the three worlds I am apart of. I used to have Friday night shopping sprees with a friend across the country. We would explore shops with our avatars, try on items, and ask each other what we thought. It's almost like a real world shopping experience. That's not to say other worlds aren't interactive. IMVU shop owners are getting creative and making boutique rooms: rooms where they display their items. Standing on a node next to that item opens options to purchase or try on. Of course, you have to find the correct boutique by searching through an endless list of rooms.

The point is that shopping in virtual worlds is more accessible than shopping in real life. I don't have to fight my way through traffic. In fact, I don't have to get up at all, and I am still achieving a goal (the goal being a sense of satisfaction). Not to mention, virtual worlds are almost always open. Even when there is little money in your wallet, virtual worlds are there for a leisurely escape, a social chit chat, or a good old exploration.

They are almost always open, 24/7, for your entertainment. Instant-gratification fix at your pleasure.

Enjoy, shopaholics.

Copy-Editor of Frenzy, a magazine
Thursday, 6 May 2010

Virtual Farming: Where there's muck there's money!

Although I am taking a sabbatical from writing for a while, I just could not resist this one.

Business Insider reports that Zynga, the company behind Farmville, the popular game in Facebook has been provisionally valued at US$4 billion! When did lost kittens, lonely cows and manure get so popular?