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And The Winner is... Virtual Economies
by Yaniv Nizan on 12/05/12 02:30:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


We already know that virtual economies are powering over 90% of the top grossing games but how many developers are actually planning on implementing in-game economy in their game and what other alternatives are developers using.

We asked the mobile game develoepr community of the The SOOMLA Project the following question “What business model will your freemium game use?”. The options we gave were:

  • Free with Virtual Economy (in-game coins)
  • Free with option to buy full version
  • Ads (banners and full page)
  • Free and sell levels and upgrades
  • I’m making a premium game
The results are given at the chart below:

The full results in the original survey can be found here as well - What business model will your freemium mobile game use?
The trend towards Virtual Economies is very strong and combined with some other data about the number of new mobile game projects starting every month, one can reach the conclusion that there are about 12,000 games that are trying to integrate virtual economies at any given moment.
What’s even more interesting is the fact that if you combine all the coding efforts being put into virtual economies you easily reach 1,000 years of man work. One can only imagine what could be achieved if even 1% of this effort would have been funneled towards a collaborative project.

This is what The SOOMLA Project is about. Standardizing Game Economies and colloboratively creating a Virtual Economy Framework that will benefit everyone.

Will be happy to discuss more about this or any other game economy design topic. You can find me at Google Plus , the SOOMLA blog or on Twitter.  

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Simon Ludgate
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You are misusing the term "virtual economy" when you mean to say "item shop" or "micro-transactions portal". A virtual economy is an emergent system within a game where players exchange goods and services. As item shop currencies generally cannot be exchanged, they are inherently not "economies".


Yaniv Nizan
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Hi Simon, thanks for your comment. I really like your writing about the subject of virtual economies. I understand what you are saying and fully agree that exchanging currencies between players is a key component in an economy. However, it seems that all the mobile game developers who responded to the survey agreed with my terminology. What it means to me is that there is a need for a new term.

I believe you can identify 3 different models:
1 - In Game purchases of upgrades, features and levels
2 - Games where the user can earn, collect or win a currency as well as spend it on goods
3 - Games where the user can earn and spend but also trade and exchange with other users

I wish to distinct #2 from #1 since many mobile game developers are missing the power #2. If #3 is Virtual economy and "item-shop" or "micro transactions portal" are describing #1. How would you call #2?

Ramin Shokrizade
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I would call #2 a game where a currency budget is used as a strategic element.

Yaniv Nizan
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Well, since #2 is 95% of the activity in mobile games we need a catchy name for it. Something like: Lite Game Economy, Casual Game Economy, Mobile Game Economy.