Jesse Schell: What's going to happen with virtual currencies is interesting because the advertising folks, just like everybody else, are really kind of trying to struggle to figure out What does this new digital media mean? Interactive advertising is problematic because when you say Here's an advertisement. Now you can interact with it. Your first interaction is "Make it go away," because you don't want advertising. That's the whole point of advertising: you don't want it.
Advertisers are going to realize the incredible power that... the ways they can tap into these virtual economies as we become more and more connected. People think that these virtual economies... they think that they're isolated, that they're off somewhere, but everyone's going to start to realize that it's just information on the Internet. If you want to give me 100 gold if I buy a 24-pack of Coca-Cola at the grocery store, you could do that now. There's no technological barrier to keep you from doing that. The grocery store already has a unique bar code that you swipe when you exit, they already know your email address, most likely; all you have to do is give them one more piece of information about your World of Warcraft account and BANG – you could start doing that right there. And the same goes for Farmville or any game that has an online or virtual currency. The advertisers are going to start to see that Wow. These currencies mean something to people. People put in hours and hours of their lives trying to build up this currency. How can we have them engage with our brand... purchase our products, spread the word about our new products, give reviews to our products, etc. and reward them with these virtual currencies? We're starting to see it happen already. On Facebook we've seen quite a bit of this, and I think we're gonna see it kind of branching out into the real world quite a lot.
They're starting to get the idea. They're trying to figure out how to begin. There's a kind of a priming the pump problem that they have right now, but all it's gonna take is a couple successes in this space, and you're gonna see just a huge ocean of… experiments. And some of them are gonna succeed.
Recorded on June 21, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont