According to a survey commissioned by game company PopCap, approximately 100 million people in the US and UK alone are social gamers. Of that number, 83% said Facebook was their preferred place to play. Now here comes the important number, nearly a third (32%) of social gamers said they were likely to purchase virtual items with real-world currency.
But not everyone has the ability or is comfortable paying online, so GameStop is working on a solution that they hope will help them gain some ground in the Facebook gaming business. To promote their new game, Gangsta Zombies, GameStop is giving out promo cards in their stores that can be used as in-game currency. They’re also selling pre-paid cards that players can buy and use in lieu of a credit card or give to someone as a gift. Chris Morrison of InsideSocialGames.com says,
“With a healthy following among the under-served young male demographic — those that are most likely to need prepaid cards, and currently least likely to be playing Facebook games — the company is in a good position to exploit Facebook’s game community, if only it can find a winning title.”
Apparently Gangsta Zombies isn’t living up to it’s cool, trendy name so the guys at Mafia Wars needn’t worry.
Working in the opposite direction is eGift who recently released an app on Facebook that allows a person to send their virtual friends a gift that must be picked up in a real store. Right now, the only option is to send them an ice cream cone from Cold Stone Creamery but the app page taunts us with three “Coming Soon” graphics.
In this case, the buyer uses their credit card to pay for the gift online, then the system emails a gift notice to their chosen Facebook friend. The person must print out the notice and redeem it at their local store. If you ask me, it beats paying a couple of dollars to send your friends a virtual cupcake on their birthday.
In GameStop’s case, handing out promo gift cards is a great way to drive business to their Facebook application. It’s a tactic I’m very familiar with having come into online marketing through the gambling side of the biz (back when it was legal in the US.) The company I worked for sent out thousands of promo cards worth anywhere from $5 to $25 dollars that could be used to gamble on their site. The cards were left with bartenders and coffee shop owners all over the US and they never failed to bring in new customers who promptly lost the promo money then reloaded from their own credit cards.
eGift’s opposite take, going from online to in-store, could be an effective strategy for any product or service that can’t be delivered over the internet. If they keep the items under $10, Facebookers won’t even think twice about sending a free scoop, cookie or actual cupcake to all of their friends on their birthdays.
What are your thoughts on using real gift cards to drive virtual sales and vice versa?