Virtual Games Bring Currency to Real Life

January 25, 2014 — Leave a comment

Young entrepreneur Brian Wong sees mobile games invading real life.

Mobile games playable on smartphones, tablet PCs, and other Internet-connected devices are projected to surpass $11 billion in annual revenue by 2014, up from $8 billion in 2011, according to a report by Juniper Research. Twenty-year-old software guru Brian Wong says that the mobile game space will advance faster than many are predicting.

“There are still a few billion people on the planet that have not touched a mobile device or game. Imagine what happens when they come online,” Wong said at WorldFuture 2011, the annual conference of the World Future Society. Wong was on hand to discuss his new company, Kiip, which gives players real rewards for their mobile video-game achievements. When players win a level or reach a particularly high score, they can access real-world rewards, everything from coupons for cappuccinos to discounts on clothes and even cruises.

“We’re trying to leverage the mass amount of people who are engaging [in these games] to tie with marketing and advertising and make the game emotionally relevant,” said Wong.

One potential catalyst for runaway growth in mobile-game revenue is the advent of a mobile-payment system, which would allow people to make purchases directly from their phones while immersed in video-game play.

“Right now we’re exclusively paying through plastic, bank accounts, cash, and that’s about it,” Wong said. “But soon we’ll get the ability to use our phones to make payments. Once that happens, [users] can pay without feeling like [they’re] paying.”

Wong also sees an enormous rise in the value of the virtual economy (VE), which roughly refers to exchanges of virtual goods, links, and digital labor such as tweeting. An April 2011 report commissioned by the World Bank valued the virtual economy at $3 billion at the end of 2009. Wong predicts the VE could grow to $300 billion in the next 10 years.

“These [virtual] goods can be reproduced into infinity with no physical barrier,” he told THE FUTURIST. “The challenge is to use marketing, scarcity, and exclusivity to make the goods meaningful and valuable.” Of Kiip, he said, “We’re building that.”

Wong is particularly sanguine about the potential of new currency systems built around social network platforms. One example is Facebook credits, a system that allows users to buy virtual goods on all the games across Facebook, such as the popular Mafia Wars, Evony, and Farmville.

“The World Bank report leaves out the companies that have the power to consolidate virtual value, like Facebook,” said Wong. “The dollar and euro are yesterday’s news. What happens with Facebook credits or other credit systems? That’s the fascinating question.” -Patrick Tucker

Sources: Brian Wong (interview at WorldFuture 2011),

Knowledge Map of the Virtual Economy by Vili Lehdonvirta and Mirko Ernkvist (World Bank publications, 2011), Information for Development Program,


Brian Wong, 20-year-old entrepreneur and Kiip founder, at WorldFuture 2011.

Originally published in THE FUTURIST, November-December 2011


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