Study: Gamers are gaga for virtual goods

Consumer spending on virtual goods has doubled since 2009, according to a survey by Visa’s PlaySpan digital monetization division. And the total U.S. market value for virtual goods grew 28 percent to $2.3 billion in 2011.

Iconicfuture creates easy way to license brands for virtual goods

Iconicfuture believes in the virtual future. The German startup hopes to be a matchmaker that puts together the owners of brands with developers who want to use branded virtual goods in their online games. It is doing so by setting up a digital marketplace where licensors and licensees can cut a deal.

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Diablo 3 beta begins today

Initial invitations to join the beta testing program for Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo 3 game are finally making the rounds to Battle.net account holders.

Attention, shoppers: Men outspend women 9 to 1 on mobile virtual goods

Given the stereotype of how much women love shopping, you’d expect them to be the biggest spenders online. And women are indeed fueling purchases at sites such as Gilt Groupe. But when it comes to purchases of virtual goods in mobile social games, men outspend women by 9 to 1, according to a survey by MocoSpace.

The new chain gang: Chinese prisoners forced to play for virtual goods

The Guardian is reporting that prisoners in labor camps in China were forced to play online games like World of Warcraft in 12 hour shifts in order to earn virtual credits, currencies and goods which could then be sold by the guards. Prisoners who did not meet their quotas were beaten.

Live Gamer and Skrill partner to help online games make money worldwide

Live Gamer has partnered with payment provider Skrill to provide worldwide monetization options for online game publishers. The combined offering makes it easier for game publishers to launch games with Live Gamer’s virtual goods platform and Skrill’s Moneybookers payment system.

PayPal says its micropayment system isn’t a threat to Facebook’s Credits

Paypal announced earlier this week that it had partnered with Facebook and other websites to launch a new micropayment service for virtual goods. At the time of the announcement, it was unclear how the new offering would effect existing virtual goods payment systems such as Facebook Credits. Now PayPal’s vice president of global product strategy, Sam Shrauger, says the new micropayment offering won’t cause any significant changes to those existing systems; it will just provide an additional payment method.

U.S. virtual goods market to hit $2.1 billion in 2011

Are your friends loading up on tractor fuel in FarmVille, the most popular social game on Facebook? If so, you might understand this prediction: the U.S. virtual goods market is expected to hit $2.1 billion in revenues in 2011.

Facebook Credits coming to a Target near you

Target announced this morning that it will be selling Facebook Credits gift cards starting Sunday, September 5, through its 1,750 U.S. retail stores and on Target.com. The gift cards will be available in values of $15, $25, and $50.

Mixamo bets video game players will pay money for virtual motion

Virtual goods have become a runaway industry as gamers the world over show they’re willing to pay real money for virtual room decorations, pets, swords and cars. Now a startup called Mixamo is betting that gamers will pay for virtual movement, too.

How Skype plans to make money from ads, games and virtual gifts

Skype disclosed in its filing for an initial public offering today that less than 7 percent of its users actually pay for Skype calling services. Just 8.1 million of its 124 million users take advantage of SkypeOut, paying a small amount of money to make calls to landlines.

Facebook to close virtual gift shop as it hones in on Credits

Facebook is shuttering its virtual goods store after three years and is focusing on building out its Credits online payments system. The Credits system will give third-party companies who run games and other applications on Facebook a uniform currency for selling virtual items on the social network.

Mobile payments service Zong raises $15 million from Matrix Partners

Zong, a mobile payments startup that helps social gamers buy virtual goods, raised $15 million from Matrix Partners. The company, which started off as a division of Echovox and rode the wave of the booming virtual-goods industry, has now spun-off as an independent enterprise. It’s also cemented a long-in-the-works deal to be the mobile payments provider for Facebook’s new virtual currency Credits.

Kongregate grows virtual goods revenue 30 percent per month

In case you haven’t noticed, virtual goods is rapidly becoming the business model of choice for online games. A proof point for that is the latest report from Kongregate, an aggregator of independently developed online games.

Crunchies: Zynga’s Mark Pincus sees a future for socially-conscious virtual goods

Although best-known for sucking in about 70 million people to become online farmers and crop-growers in its Farmville game, Zynga has also started using virtual goods to raise money for different social causes. The company launched a “Sweet Seeds” initiative last fall, in which users can purchase special sweet potato seeds and send 50 percent of the proceeds to two non-profit organizations in Haiti. The program ended up raising more than $1 million for children in the country.