Warning: Real potato farmers should stop reading here. This might ruin your week.
A San Francisco-based company just cleared $830,000 US in two weeks by selling seed potatoes. The potatoes are virtual but the money is very, very real.
Zynga is a developer of apps for Facebook and the iPhone. One of their biggest hits is... get this... a game about farming. Farmville lets users own and manage a virtual farm. Apparently it's very addictive. At least, the 20 million users who are currently playing the game must think so.
A screen capture of the Farmville game on Facebook
The game is free to play. The way the company makes money is through micropayments. People can spend real dollars buying tractors and things like seed, such as this special new potato that was released. The micropayments are small and allow players to improve their farms without having to earn the extras through normal play. This from a game strategy website:
For people who don't want to waste time waiting for the crop to grow, farm coins can be purchased with real-world cash using a PayPal account or credit card. The cost is currently 7,500 coins or 25 farm cash for $5; 15,800 coins or 55 farm cash for $10; 33,300 coins or 115 farm cash for $20; or 70,600 coins or 240 farm cash for $40. Players can also earn free farm cash or coins by taking part in special offers or questionnaires.
I've blogged about micropayments before. I've already purchased apps for my BlackBerry, such as the Nat Decants app that allows me to go to a wine store, choose a wine, and find recipes to match. That application cost me $3.
An editor of a major trade newspaper was telling me that micropayments could be the future of journalism. It's not hard to imagine a tiny Visa and MasterCard icon beside the headline on a publication's website. The only way to read the whole story would be to click one of the icons and have 25 cents charged to your card. Log-in once in the morning and stayed logged in, securely, all day.
Sure 25 cents ain't much. But multiply that by 100 readers. That's a day's wage right there.
Okay potato farmer. Unplug your ears. And if you were listening after all, just remember that all these virtual farm game players probably eat a lot of REAL french fries.
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