Facebook goes retail in a big way, FarmVille looks to prosper

facebook home pageAccording to a recent survey by Miniwatts Marketing Group 517,760,460 million people, or roughly 7% of the world's population, have an account on social networking site, Facebook. New "friends" (dare I say, citizens) are joining daily.

The Republic of Facebook? Like all emerging nations, the mega site has been developing its own currency, or "credits" and members can now purchase Facebook Credit gift cards in increments from $5 to $50 at Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy to upgrade game play, and make "virtual" purchases and charitable donations online.

Deborah Liu, manager of product marketing for Facebook Credits and Games, told WalletPop, "Facebook Credit gift cards make the perfect stocking stuffer for those who love playing social games on Facebook." Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus and this year you'll be getting a "virtual miracle" on 34th Street.

Two of the most popular and addicting past times, Zynga's rural fantasy retreat, FarmVille, at 56,205,569 active monthly players strong and gem-matching game Bejeweled Blitz Facebook from Popcap at 11,680,121 monthly users stand to score the most from the new form of payment.

It may be the only place you can buy virtual land, virtual livestock and "live the rural dream" ... er, virtually, for under $20. Yee-haw!

Recently, the FarmVille Facebook page posted a promotion which read: "Need more FarmVille Cash? You can get 240 Farm Cash for just $40! Click the "Add Farm Coins & Cash tab in FarmVille to shop now!" A cute cartoon world without recession, more than 56 million busy farmers, and an exchange rate that grows your money six times over -- no wonder people would like to virtually relocate. On the messy, real-life side of the screen, there are probably a few flesh and blood farmers who would be happy to take your cash as well, in exchange for maybe, produce? Dairy? But I digress.

Gem matching brainteaser, Bejeweled Blitz, has reportedly consumed more than 7 billion leisure hours since it began in 2000, and its developer, PopCap Games, is finding similar success with the Facebook version. Spending Facebook Credits here earns players "boosts" to improve their game and increase the challenge.

There's also fun to be had and money to be spent at more than 200 other games on Facebook, including Playfish's Pet Society,Zynga's FrontierVille, Crowdstar's Hello City,Playdom's City of Wonder and Booyah's Nightclub City. In addition, Liu noted that the Facebook Credits program was recently expanded to include additional third party games and applications.

"The National Retail Foundation is reporting that gift cards continue to be the most requested gift this year," said Liu. "And with more than 200 million people playing games on Facebook every month, gift cards make perfect sense."

Liu also told WalletPop, "As gift cards become a universally popular and easy-to-use form of payment, we're excited to give people the ability to purchase Facebook Credit gift cards for their own use or to give as gifts ... one of the goals for Facebook Credits is to provide people with the ability to easily purchase Credits with their preferred payment option."

It's not all fun and games, however. The Facebook Credit gift cards can also be used to support non-profit charitable foundations such as Nothing But Nets and Stand Up 2 Cancer which have partnerships with the site, and there's nothing virtual about finding a cure.

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