Then I found Spare Change.
Spare Change sits on top of PayPal (which sits on top of the banking system) and, for a small fee for each transaction, allows me to make microtransactions and buy things to spice up my favourite Facebook apps.Oh, thank heavens for Spare Change.For just $5, I could buy a chainsaw. So I spent $50 and bought two chainsaws, plus a machete, shotgun, uzi, meat cleaver and bazooka for good measure.Forget turning mates into Zombies ... just kill them.Now, I am the Zombie Pope in the Cathedral of Death.And Richard, the idiot who attacked me with a chainsaw, is dead meat.Now you may wonder what the hell I am talking about, but the above is a real incident that occurred on Facebook last year, after I signed up for the game promotion of Resident Evil.And Spare Change is a simple little Facebook app, that allows me to buy things in Facebook gameworlds. I blogged about this app, and others such as the QQ coin, a year ago if you want to know more.And these gameworlds are growing into big business.According to current estimates, the worldwide market for virtual goods is expected to approach $5 billion this year. That’s $5 billion worth of exchanging stuff that doesn’t exist ... but it’s fun.And it’s also incredibly quick to build a business.
For example, within a week of its launch, game company Zynga's new Café World game in Facebook had garnered ten million players.
Farmville, another game from Zynga that started this summer, already has over 60 million monthly users.
And analysts reckon that about a tenth of these players buy stuff so, if a tenth of Zynga’s 60 million farm players buy a cow or tractor for $5 this month, then Zynga are banking $3 million a month.That is why another social game developer, Playfish, was acquired by the more traditional computer games developer, EA Games, for $275 million in cash last week.This is big stuff.Even bigger is the idea of using virtual worlds and social gaming to bling your profile.That’s how China’s QQ coins started and soon became a phenomena. Today, QQ international boasts over a billion users and more than 500 million active monthly users. That’s four times the number of users of Facebook and six times more active users than PayPal!Add on the microtransactions of iPhone apps, with over 1.5 billion iPhone downloads and over 100,000 apps now developed, and we start to see the world changing.After all, if I charge $0.01 per download for an iPhone app, and get a 100 million downloads ... that makes me a millionaire. And with the SuBo effect, where a woman (Susan Boyle) appears in a UK talent show and is watched by over 300 million people globally via the internet in less than two months, 100 million downloads is not unreasonable for a good app.These experiences, along with others such as Second Life’s Linden Dollar economy, indicate that the future of money is not money itself. We do not wake up and think about making payments and buying money, we think about waking up and thinking I’m going to use my money to buy something.So money is purely there for the value exchange.And if that value exchange can be achieved by using virtual coins, fantastic. Conclusion: expect the world of the next decade to morph into a myriad of payment mechanisms that supplement, supplant and supply fun and games on top of the traditional banking network.Oh yes, and expect billions of microtransactions to occur person-to-person globally.