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Little World Gifts

Little World Gifts partners with WWF, location-based virtual goods up next

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[UK] Little World Gifts, the Liverpool-based mobile virtual goods startup, has signed WWF as its first major brand partner. That’s WWF-UK, the world-renowned conservation charity, not the wrestling federation with the same initials.

More interesting, however, is where Little World Gifts is headed next: Location-based gifting. In a future update, users of the company’s iPhone app (iTunes link) will be prompted to purchase and receive virtual gifts based on their current location, moving the service a little towards the rewards element of the likes of Foursquare and Gowalla.

But first let’s deal with the WWF announcement.

Little World Gifts is adding three WWF branded gifts to its store: a replica of the charity’s “iconic” panda-shaped collection boxes, a ‘wooden tiger toy’ and an animated, lifelike Adélie penguin. Proceeds from the gifts, which cost between €2.99 ($3.99) and €3.99 ($4.99) and are paid-for via the iPhone’s ‘in-app’ purchasing feature, are being shared with WWF, with 36% of revenue going to the charity.

Now I’ll admit that I’ve yet to buy into this whole ‘virtual gift’ idea, even if these are in 3D and are a bit more visually appealing than the tiny 2D icon-type gifts exchanged on Facebook, for example. And I’m also probably not the penguin-hugging, iPhone-touting demographic that Little World Gifts and WWF-UK are targeting. But still, the pricing here seems to be somewhat on the high side and doesn’t exactly spell impulse buy to me.

That’s likely to be the result of revenue having to be split three ways. First, Apple takes 30% of any iPhone App Store purchase, after which Little World Gifts and WWF are splitting the remainder.

Little World Gifts says it will soon be announcing further content partnerships with “similarly well-loved household name brands” and that an Android app is in the works.

But, as already noted, the company is also going to expand its offering to include location-based gifts so that, for example, if you’re a tourist visiting London, Little World Gifts could offer to sell you a virtual replica of Big Ben for yourself or to send to someone back home. In fact, it’s easy to imagine all sorts of virtual souvenirs. And if you visit a particular venue or physical store, you might be rewarded with a free virtual gift as part of said brand’s marketing efforts. Although, as Foursquare-esque as that may seem, I’d much rather be given a voucher for a free cup of real coffee for checking into a particular cafe or whatever, rather than receiving some kind of equivalent digital replica.

Further integration with social networks, likely to be Facebook initially, is also scheduled later in 2010.

The six-person startup has to-date received seed funding from Northwest Vision and Media’s Regional Attractive Fund, and are said to in the process of securing a Series A to further expand its virtual goods offering.

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