Handsome Profits, Low Investment: Selling 'Unreal' in the Digital World

One of interesting questions concerning the US economy these days is what do we produce of value? The old-fashioned model of economics is based on concrete goods and services that are used by people in daily life.

Historically, people have always spent money on pleasure and intangible experiences. But the trend is escalating in our digital world. The idea sounds distracting and probably for slackers. Just kidding.

Perhaps the idea of buying nonexistent goods and services is good for our planet?

Today’s NYTimes probes the topic: The Goods May Be Virtual, but the Profit Is Real.

The global market for virtual, nonexistent good is estimated to be $5 billion this year. The cost of these goods is work by artists and programmers, with almost no cost of goods beyond imagination, labor and a laptop.These goods create minimal stress on the environment — no packaging and pollution — and they fulfill many human needs, both humane ones and not so.

In Restaurant City, a game by Playfish on Facebook, 18 million active users manage their own cafe and stock it with virtual casseroles and cakes. In Zynga’s game FarmVille, 62 million agrarian dreamers cultivate a farm, plant squash seeds and harvest their crops with tractors.

The experience is like going to the movies, a form of pleasure and recreation. The mental and psychological interaction of participants makes the game more psychologically involving than the passive experience of watching a movie or listening to a concert.

I laugh because some years back, I knew my relationship was in very serious trouble when I asked my partner about his day, and he told me stories, not at his professional job, but his day on Ultima Online. This included his purchase of houses and all the details of an ordinary life. Anne