The market for intangible goods just isn’t going to go away. Indeed, it seems to be one of the few markets that hasn’t withered horribly under the global economic whatever-we’re-calling-the-SNAFU-this-week, and while it’s a pretty exploitative business in many respects, it’s not as nasty as some of the other markets that rely on the poorest nations for manpower and exports:
Ultimately, the report’s authors say, the size of the virtual economy and the potential for citizens of poorer nations to pocket a significant amount of money from it suggest that virtual goods and services should be taken seriously by any group that’s looking at ways to help lift people out of poverty. The authors estimate the size of the market for third-party gaming services alone was $3 billion in 2009. Significantly, most of this money went directly to the developing countries, as opposed to being eaten up by Western intermediaries. The report contrasts this with the market for coffee, which was $70 billion globally in 2009, but only $5.5 billion went to countries that produce the coffee beans.
Factor in rising costs for the shipping of physical goods, and things could start looking real weird real fast: a shift in output from plastic tchotchkes to digital ones. Can’t say I’d consider that to be an entirely bad thing.