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Offerpal Media launches a virtual money war with Facebook

Offerpal Media is launching a universal virtual currency for games today as part of an effort to expand its reach and revenues in the social gaming industry.

Gamers will be able to earn Offerpal’s Game Points virtual currency in more than 1,500 online games and social apps. Offerpal can reach that many games already because it is in the offer business. Offers are a special kind of ad — which has proven to be very popular in Facebook games — where a user agrees to sign up for something like a Netflix subscription in order to get virtual currency to spend in a game.

But the strategy will likely put Offerpal on a collision course with Facebook, which is launching its own universal currency, Facebook Credits, as soon as June. Facebook expects that those who make apps for its social network will standardize around Facebook Credits, which can serve as a kind of euro, allowing gamers to spend their credits in just about any kind of app or game. But unlike Facebook Credits, Game Points can be spent outside of Facebook.

This clash is going to be a pretty big and important fight. Whoever succeeds will essentially be able to put a tax on games in the form of royalty payments on every transaction made. That’s important because games are the most lucrative app on social networks now. Inside Network estimates the U.S. virtual goods industry revenue will hit $1.6 billion in 2010.

Offerpal is launching a new GamePoints.com website that rewards its members with virtual currency when they shop at big-brand retailers, take part in offers from trusted advertisers, complete market research surveys, watch online videos, trade in unwanted gift cards, and do other tasks. The Game Points can be exchanged for in-game currency in more than 1,500 online games and apps. You can earn game points shopping at big-brand retailers such as Macy’s Overstock, Gap, Buy.com, Snapfish, McAfee, Eastern Mountain Sports, CostPlus, and hundreds more.

Game Points can be spent on virtual goods in games in Facebook, but it will also be available to purchase virtual goods  MySpace, Bebo, Hi5 and other social networks as well as standalone online games and virtual world sites. At launch, participating gaming applications include Zynga’s FarmVille, YoVille, Zynga Poker, Mafia Wars, Café World, PetVille, FishVille, Vampire Wars and others; Playdom’s Mobsters, Sorority Life, Social City, Tiki Resort and others; Digital Chocolate’s MMA Pro Fighter; HitGrab’s Mousehunt; TheBroth’s Barn Buddy; Tall Tree Game’s Fish World; K-Factor Media’s Castle Age; Tree Room’s My Town; Apps-O-Rama’s Car Madness; Offbeat Creations’ Be a Tycoon; BitRhymes’ The Warlords; Five Minutes’ Happy Farm; and many others.

Offerpal was founded in 2007 and it has issued more than 1 trillion virtual points to over 225 million consumers across 2,000 publishers. Besides Facebook, its rivals include Social Gold (which also took a swing at Facebook Credits recently) and PlaySpan in virtual goods and AdKnowledge and TrialPay in offers.

The company faced criticism last year for reportedly deceptive marketing offers, and founding CEO Anu Shukla was replaced by George Garrick, who has since tried to improve the company’s image.

Offerpal’s investors include Interwest Capital, North Bridge Venture Partners, and D. E. Shaw Ventures.

[image credit: Business Insider]

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