As a freelance creative professional, I find myself using many websites that force me to buy into some fictitious currency in order to make transactions. From the site I buy my stock art from to the one I land jobs from, IâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢m constantly stocking up on anonymous credits, virtual bucks and other make-believe moolah.
ItâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢s nothing new. Thirty years ago, arcades were forcing you to buy tokens to fire up the Donkey Kong machine. And strip clubs long ago learned the power of having their ATMs dispense Cleavage Cash rather than Government-sanctioned dollars.
The benefit is two-fold. First, itâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢s easier to suspend your belief that you’re actually spending hard-earned cash when youâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢re not forking over real Benjamins. And second, once youâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢re converted your real money to fake money, itâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢s pretty tough exchange it back.
Facebook has taken notice.
Beginning early last year, you could buy virtual cartoon pigs, birthday cakes, ninjas, smooches, handcuffs, pacifiers and âˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â‰ˆÃ¬kick meâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨Â¬Ã¹ signs on Facebook. The gifts come in limited quantities, so if youâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢re on the fence about getting that smiling yam with the googley eyes, it may be harder to resist when there are only 5,000 left.
It works like this: You simply choose a gift, select a recipient, add a personal message, choose whether itâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â€šÃ‘Â¢s personal or public (or anonymous), and hit the check-out lane. That’s where this new wrinkle comes in.
Rather than paying for gifts with actual dollars via online transaction, you must now first buy credits to shop in Facebook’s online gift shop. One dollar equals 100 credits, and you can buy up to 1,000 at a time ($10).
Most Facebook virtual gifts are still $1, errr, 100 credits, but they’ll soon be available for as little as a dime.
But this burgeoning enterprise is collecting much more than chump change. Get ready for this: Some estimates claim that Facebook’s virtual gifts are on track for a $35 million run rate. When you consider that these gifts are more useless than temporary henna tattoos, and often uglier, the number is even more staggering.
So heck, if the economy has downsized your holiday shopping budget to the point where you’re rolling change from the piggybank or carting soda cans to Michigan, maybe Facebook has gifts that can fit your wish list – and still make your friends’ and families’ virtual dreams come true.