Social networking sites like Playfish, which is a gaming social networking site, currently attract some 61 million users. The gaming site, which features 11 games, is raking in the big bucks by selling virtual goods for people to add to their virtual restaurant or pet menu, i.e. virtual furniture. According to a recent BBC article, virtual goods sales are going to take off here in the U.S. and spending is expected to reach in the billions of dollars.

The article also states:

The new gamers

And it is not just the stereotypical gamers that are spending their hard earned cash on goods that only add up to a handful of pixels on a website

Emma Cox is probably fairly typical of the new breed of social gamer who plays as a way to stay connected to friends and family.

“I am not a traditional gamer. I don’t buy console games or go out and spend $40 on a game for my PlayStation,” said Ms Cox.

“I am playing online games for a different reason and it’s instant gratification, playing with friends, showing off to others and have them see all the virtual goods you have bought for yourself and even for them.”

Ms Cox told the BBC she spends about $10 a month per game on virtual goods and plays two to three games. Her favorite is Country Store where players trade real money for coins allowing players to move ahead in the game or to buy goods.

This is an interesting take on playing games online. It seems that for some people it costs less to play online than to spend $40 or $50 for a software game.

There is just one thing I still find hard to believe. Why would anyone want to spend money for goods that are virtual and not real? Seems strange to me. What about you?

Comments welcome.