Monetizing: Virtual Goods venture capital 2009

Explanation of a bunch of virtual goods products and services companies, monetizing social media and social network activity, as a revenue stream or business model for online communities.

CNET came up with these figures for funding last month:

Virtual goods funding tops $69 million in first quarter

First quarter 2009 financings:

* IMVU – $10,000,000
* ngmoco – $10,000,000
* Nurien – $10,000,000
* Offerpal Media – $15,000,000
* Ohai – $6,000,000
* OMGPOP – $5,000,000
* – $3,500,000
* Scrapblog – $4,000,000
* Viximo – $5,000,000
* Three Melons – $600,000


Virtual Goods Don’t Just Belong to Second Life

For those of you that don’t know the services listed above:


IMVU is a Instant Messenging social network – last time I saw it, you could either have a text based window like MSN Messenger or flip to a 3D avatar room and invite friends in. Virtual Goods could be created and sold in market place by members, or purchased as host-offered products. They said last year that they make $1 million per month from virtual goods sales, so that 10 million from Best Buy is no biggie.


Ngmoco 🙂 makes iPhone games including Rolando 2,

Create Your Own Rolando

Posted on: 6/25/2009

Now is your chance to find fame and glory in the Rolando 2 universe. We’ve launched the Rolando Creator, which allows you to create a Rolando of your very own and share him, her, or it with the world.

Alongside sending your Rolando to your friends on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll be able to add your new circular bff to the great Rolando Roundup. The most popular Rolandos will appear on the Rolando 2 website—and they may even guest star in future game updates.

I play virtual pets on the iPhone so I know how addictive it can be, and spending a few dollars on updating clothing/goods is not a huge ask.


Nurien seems quite similar to IMVU except the whole site is in KOREAN. But given my uber-leet language skills (and Google) here is their details:

Nurien is a new category of social networking service where we can give our users more powerful ways to express their identities by enabling them to create their own unique avatars, fashions, 3D objects, legacy media (such as photo, video, and text) and share them with the world via their own 3D rooms that are accessible from a web-browser as well as our software clients. Users will use their own unique avatars to play various fun games and also partake on social applications like fashion shows, and music video contests.

Nurien’s first three offerings include MStar, Runway, and QuizStar. MStar is an online music dance game similar to game interface such as Guitar Hero or Dance-Dance-Revolution. Runway is an innovative fashion show application, players will follow certain rules and various themes to create their own clothing line and compete on a virtual fashion show – where other users within the community will watch and vote online. QuizStar is a casual online game and it is a great way to have fun with friends and meet new people.


I often speak about Offerpal in my monetization of social media workshops. It’s a “try this product and get the one you want free!” platform. For example, if I want addtional currency for my virtual pets on my iPhone, I can click and watch an ad, subscribe to a newsletter, or complete some other call to action, and get 20 coins or whatever for the virtual pet for free.

Offerpal Media is the first “Managed Offer Platform” for social applications, online communities and e-commerce sites. Our full-service, turnkey advertising platform monetizes social publisher’s traffic while generating high-quality leads for advertisers. The platform is based on an innovative engagement-marketing model in which users earn points or virtual currencies by participating in unique advertising offers that are specially engineered for targeting, relevancy and maximum conversions.


Ohai to you too! From TechCrunch 23rd jan 2009

New startup Ohai has been getting big cocktail party buzz over the last few months. The company won’t disclose much about what they’re doing, except that they’re building a Flash-based massively multiplayer online game (MMOG). And they certainly have the team to do it.

Susan Wu, the founder and CEO, is a former principal at Charles River Ventures and the former CMO of the Apache Software Foundation, and has experience with MMOGs. She’s also a self-confessed World Of Warcraft addict.

Anyone who plays World of Warcraft knows what they are doing. Right? Right!

OMGPop were I’mInLikeWithYou

OMGPOP is a place to hang out, play free online multiplayer games, chat and make friends

We started in 2006 as iminlikewithyou, a place for people to play games to meet each other and in 2009 changed our name to the shorter OMGPOP where people meet each other to play games.

We don’t make millions of games, but instead a small number each with our own mixture of play, artwork and fun so that when you come to our site, you know what you get. Our average users log in 100 times a month. That’s why we know, for a fact, that this will be bigger than unicorns and wrestling combined.

Have done work for companies such as Dentsu, Cyworld, Nike and EA.

I was a member of Pogo years ago – a bit like them. Games like Tetris and word games with chat rooms alongside.


OneSeason – play the sports market! Buy & Sell Virtual Shares Of Your Favorite Sports Players

Another buy and sell your favourite sports people site – if you don’t understand these sportsplay sites, just think baseball trading cards in the real world and you’ll sorta get it.


Scrapbooks is a HUGE hobby online and off. They’ve monetized it by creating online scrapbooks that you can have printed. It’s really merchandizing of user generated content rather than actual virtual goods for sale, I think. Not sure cos it kills my Flock on my Mac. Anyway, it’s like YouTube for scrapbooks – embeddable media is a GOOD thing. 🙂


Viximo might be like Offerpal- I have trouble locking down everything they do. But they definitely do the virtual goods storefront thing:

Get Started With Viximo

Viximo has all the tools necessary to execute a complete virtual good strategy across multiple platforms and distribution points.

  • Third Party Network – Distribute your branded virtual merchandise through its network of partners reaching over 20 million users per month.
  • Direct Distribution – Enable you to sell your virtual goods via your fan pages and networks on Facebook, MySpace, Ning and more
  • iPhone – Create engaging virtual goods and applications on the iPhone quickly and cheaply using Viximo’s VixML platform.
  • Targeting – Target the customers you want, maximizing your exposure and the revenue generated from virtual goods through a rich set of analytics tools.

I like their Creator Community concept – digital artists can sell their virtual artworks through Viximo affiliated storefronts. I think.

Three Melons

Three Melons offers Advergaming, and… well I don’t know. They have a crappy Flash locked down site that I can’t copy and paste from, do any promotion from and find very hard to navigate. But here’s the press release on Three Melons raising funds:

Three Melons closes U$S 600K investment

We are very proud to announce that we’ve just closed a U$S 600K round of funding , led by Santander Bank with support from current partners and local angel investors.
This seed investment round will help us extend our product strategy and continue to grow in the web and smartphone gaming space.
Now, after 3 years of working with a first class client roster, we feel ready to start bringing amazing social games to make the world play.
We also have recently become Endeavor entrepreneurs and we’ve been working for a while now  in Melon Daiquiri, our Flash development framework made of a set of technologies and tools designed to develop high-end, social enabled, web-based games.
If you want more info about the seed investment round and our plans for the future, you can get the press release here.
So….we are definitely excited to start this new stage in our company’s life and keep on innovating and creating awesome games.

These are not all companies offering virtual goods services, not by a long shot. But they are the ones listed as raising money during the GFC (global financial crisis) in the article.

By the way, why is virtual goods an important part of business models for social networks? Because Business Insider says it’s a $2 billion economy inside China. Which means sooner or later, the winning formula will spill out into the West. Oh wait… it’s here:

Here in the states the virtual gaming market is starting to undergo a similar boom. Zynga, creators of the Mafia Wars Facebook game, is due to rake in somewhere north of $100 million this year on its virtual offerings.

Competitor Playfish has seen 100 million installs of its games in little more than 18 months.

Both companies handle payments on their own or through third parties right now, but Facebook sees a revenue opportunity in managing payments and virtual currency in third party applications by itself, having recently rolled out Pay with Facebook in a limited trial.

No word yet on how concerned the Federal Reserve is with this latest development.

We value what we value. And the money follows…

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  1. Hi Laurel,

    Thanks for the mention about Viximo. Viximo does a lot of things in the virtual goods space, so let me try to clarify.

    Viximo services two primary audiences, publishers and brands.

    For publishers we provide solutions that help social networks, online dating sites, and casual gaming sites get up and running, and grow their virtual goods revenue over time. Our solutions provide a virtual currency system with payments (direct and offer based), analytics, and most importantly content. As you mentioned we source a lot of our content from a community, but also get content from premium brand deals.

    For brands, we help them monetize their brand with virtual goods in two ways. One, we distribute their branded items among our network of publishers for sale. And two, we can help them sell their virtual goods through direct channels such as the iphone, their facebook and myspace pages, etc.

    I hope this helps.

    Brian Balfour
    Founder, VP Product Marketing
    Viximo Inc.

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