Virtual Economy

07-01-15-gen-z-virtual-title-new-stHow Gen Z is making real money on virtual goods

Generation Z helped bolster the revenue of video games and downloadable content to $50 billion in 2014. Older gamers hate the very existence of microtransactions in gaming. But Gen Z are not only enthusiastic consumers of virtual goods, but also savvy entrepreneurs; gaming is even replacing ‘saturday jobs’. How is Gen Z rewriting the reality of how, and for what, we shop online?

Avid players of free-to-play and mobile games, Generation Z helped bolster the digital revenue of video games and downloadable content to an estimated $49 billion in 2014. While they’re enthusiastic customers of virtual goods, they’re certainly not passive consumers. In fact, many young gamers are becoming digital entrepreneurs themselves. Building their own thriving virtual marketplaces, this generation of savvy 3D modelers, creators and traders are rewriting the reality of how – and for what – we shop online.
Virtual items are changing hands virtually, but for real money. Often for huge sums. Among the 2.2 million players of Valve’s mega-popular PC first-person shooter game, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, or CS:GO, anything less than $1500 would be considered an absolute steal. This is “skin trading”, where rare virtual weapons are exchanged daily between teenagers the world over, through platforms such Steam Marketplace and the CS:GO Lounge forum. It’s a new culture; only since Valve introduced CS:GO’s trading economy in August 2013 have players been able to collect and sell rare in-game weapons, but it has quickly become integral to gaming culture and community. And it’s sophisticated – players aren’t restricted to simply buy and sell economics, but can also trade and bet.

Market values fluctuate daily, making the financial dimension of the game of strategic appeal to shrewd brokering and speculation, especially because there’s real money at stake, to the extent that savvy gaming is replacing saturday jobs for some. This is the ethos behind “EZ Skins, EZ Life”, the mantra synonymous with CS:GO’s traders and eSport betters. It stands for Generation Z’s penchant for quick cash made from the comfort of home, simply by playing the game they love. So how do they get the money?

Third-party trading sites, like the CS:GOsubreddit, TF2 Outpost and backpack.tf facilitate unofficial cash trading arrangements via PayPal or Bitcoin. Z is a generation of virtual item brokers, negotiators, re-sellers, and match bookies at the forefront of the digital gold rush, thanks to their unprecedented aptitude for virtual economic systems. Digital items that have no real world application or value, have come to represent all that is desirable among this generation of digital youth as many virtual items are out-valuing their real world counterparts.

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