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Real money spent on virtual goods

July 30, 2009 |  6:00 am
Pet Society 2
Some players of online games such as Pet Society shell out real money for virtual items. Credit: Playfish.

About one in 10 Americans reached into their wallets last year and spent an average of $30 on virtual goods, those pixelated swords, outfits and other non-real items used in online games such as Habbo and Club Penguin, according to a report released this morning by Frank N. Magid Assoc.

Of the $1 billion projected spending worldwide on virtual goods this year, between $200 million and $250 million will come from the U.S., the report said. Strategy Analytics, another firm that also is bullish on this market, has projected that it could grow to $17.3 billion in 2015.

Why waste real money on intangible items? According to a researcher with the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology Vili Lehdonvirta, people buy intangible items to gain status, identity, membership, class and performance.

Of course, the Magid results are potentially skewed -- the 1,927 people who participated were polled online, meaning they were more likely than the general population to be comfortable with online transactions (such as taking surveys or buying that fabulous chain mail to go on their level 80 troll).

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.

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