Social game currency increasingly popular for crowdsourcing payments

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Social game players are used to doing virtual work (i.e. harvesting fake crops) for virtual money (i.e. Farmville cash). But that concept has taken a strange twist recently: players exchanging real work for virtual cash.

The fake-money-for-real-work idea is becoming increasingly popular, according to a recent San Francisco Chronicle profile on crowdsourcing company Crowdflower. The company offers its proprietary Swag Bucks as payment for a variety of menial, hard-to-automate tasks such as verifying and categorizing search results or evaluating tweets as "positive" or "negative."

Those Swag Bucks can then be exchanged for everything from cash and gift cards to, increasingly, virtual currency for use in social games. In fact, CrowdFlower CEO Lukas Biewald says he expects virtual currency payments to reach $1 million this year -- up from a mere $50,000 last year.

That's a bit surprising, since the company's virtual currency offers aren't nearly the best deals on offer. For the same "Swag Buck" price as a $10 Farmville gift card, you could get almost $15 in PayPal cash or over $20 in Amazon gift cards. The fact that more people are taking the social gaming currency instead says something about the addictive appeal of these games, I think.
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