You could be forgiven for assuming that virtual goods are the same as digital goods, but they are not the same thing…
You may even wonder whether they are real or fake, and even whether it’s actually legal to sell them.
This article is going to cover everything you need to know about virtual goods, and answer all of your most frequently asked questions on the subject along the way.
We will be:
- Explaining exactly what virtual goods are,
- Discussing whether virtual goods are fake or legal,
- Going through several examples,
- Clarifying how they differ from digital goods, and
- Discussing the size of the virtual goods market.
And without further ado, let’s get straight to it!
What Is The Definition Of Virtual Goods?
A virtual good is defined as “an intangible asset that is traded in a virtual economy”.
By definition, this means that such goods are not physical. You cannot touch or hold them in your hands.
But, that certainly does not mean that they don’t have value.
Later in this article, we’ll be going into just how much the global virtual goods revenue has been going up over the years.
Are Virtual Goods Fake? Is It Legal To Sell Them?
Sometimes, people think that if something is “virtual” this implies that it is not real.
However, virtual goods are considered real. True, you can’t feel or touch them, but they do exist. It’s just that they exist as a digitally replicated version of something real.
It is perfectly legal to sell virtual goods. That said, when virtual goods are purchased, they are often accompanied by lists of terms and conditions.
What Are Some Examples Of Virtual Goods?
Virtual goods are products and services that typically exist in a virtual world, such as in a game played on a games console or online, or both (see also “What Happened To The Horrible Histories Virtual World?“).
Or, alternatively, on social media platforms, or in an online community or club.
When you are playing a character in a game where virtual goods are available for purchase, there may be several different types of virtual goods to buy, here are some examples…
In-game currency is an example of a virtual good.
You can buy it with real money, but once you have bought this currency, you will only be able to use it within the game, and you will never be able to exchange it for real money.
An avatar is basically a digital graphical representation of someone. This could be a representation of the real you, or it could be a different character entirely.
One person may have multiple avatars on multiple platforms.
Gamers can also pay for in-game services (also classed as virtual goods), such as a custom design for an avatar.
Clothing And Accessories
It is also possible to purchase virtual clothing and accessories for your avatars.
Tools, Weapons, Powers, And Collectibles
Tools, weapons, powers, and rare collectibles are also popular virtual goods that gamers like to purchase in-game for their characters.
In various online platforms, including both games, and online clubs, users can also buy virtual goods as a gift for someone else.
This is a great way of facilitating social interaction online.
This can take the form of any intangible asset that is traded in a virtual economy, such as game points, club points, or any of the other virtual goods already mentioned.
What Is The Difference Between Virtual Goods And Digital Goods?
Yes, technically virtual goods are digital goods, but not all virtual goods are digital goods.
Digital goods are a much broader category of goods than virtual goods, and virtual goods are just one subcategory of digital goods that fall into the broader umbrella of digital goods.
Examples of digital goods that are not classed virtual goods include the likes of e-books, audiobooks, music, apps, and movies.
They are usually forms of entertainment and study materials that can be downloaded or streamed, and aren’t necessarily related to any particular game or online community or club.
How Big Is The Market For Virtual Goods?
Virtual Goods Revenue In The Recent Past
The research firm In-Stat found that the global revenue generated specifically by sales of virtual goods reached $2.1 billion in 2007.
It also found that this value had risen by 245% to $7.3 billion by the year 2010.
Asia and the Pacific region accounted for 70% of this revenue, while the remaining 30% of the revenue was from America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
This same firm predicted that the virtual goods market would be worth more than $14 billion by 2014.
But, just how accurate was this prediction?
Recent Figures On Virtual Goods Revenue
Fast-forward now to 2021, according to Credence Research, the global virtual goods market generated revenue of around $67.5 billion in 2021.
Yes, this is 7 years later than the prediction, but there is no denying that the fast growth of revenue in this industry has continued to grow rapidly in the predicted direction.
This $67.5 billion is 925% the same revenue in 2007, and it is 482% more than the predicted value for 2014.
Predicted Figures Of Global Virtual Goods Revenue
The figure for global virtual goods revenue is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.2% within a forecasting period reaching between the year 2022 and 2028, to reach approximately $203.6 billion.
So, while virtual goods may not be something you can actually touch, they can be very valuable.
Virtual goods and services may appear as fake to many consumers, but they exist as a genuine digital representation of something.
Virtual goods are a form of digital goods, but they can be distinguished from other digital goods because they exist in virtual worlds such as games and online communities.
The global virtual goods revenue has grown in value rapidly over recent years, going from $2.1 billion in 2007, to $67.5 billion in 2021.
What’s more, this revenue is expected to grow considerably in value in the near future to reach about $203.6 billion by 2028.
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