As more games on the web begin to embrace virtual currency, users often run into the same problem: they’ve racked up mountains of whatever currency they’ve been playing with, but then don’t have a way to actually do anything with it outside of that game. Sure, they can always buy the latest tractor or weapon to arrive in their game, but at some point that gets old and they’re ready to cash out and move on to something new. Enter Bodega, a new platform that’s looking to help users swap virtual goods and currencies across different games, and even across different social networks.
Bodega lets users sell their virtual goods at auction in return for for Bodega’s own currency, the Bodega Bill. When you go to sell your virtual goods, you can either put it up as a ‘buy it now’ style purchase or an auction, with a minimum reserve if you want. Users looking to purchase virtual goods can obtain Bodega Bills by completing offers, buying them with their credit cards, or by selling their own virtual goods in the marketplace. You can also earn Bodega Bills by completing actions on the site, like adding another user as a friend or listing an item for sale.
Of course, actually executing these transactions is difficult, because none of these games have any of this functionality built in. To work around this, Bodega holds the buyer’s Bodega Bills in escrow until there is confirmation from both users involved with the transaction that the virtual good has actually been received. This system does have the upside of allowing the platform to work across multiple social networks and platforms (Bodega is currently available on Facebook with plans to launch on MySpace, Bebo, and the iPhone soon), but it’s not the ideal situation. CEO Mark Sendo says that the company is currently in discussions with a number of big games in this space, in the hopes of integrating an API into the games themselves that would negate much of the hassle associated with the transactions, but it sounds like it may be a while before any big deals come to fruition.
Once you’ve earned some Bodega Bills, you can use them to purchase other virtual goods (so you could potentially buy points on another game or social network), or you can trade them in for cash — something that sounds like it could be especially appealing to gamers who are looking to turn their online wealth into something a bit more tangible. Sendo says that the amount of money paid out will be established by the market (the actual conversion rate will likely play a big role in how quickly Bodega catches on).
Virtual currency marketplaces have always been a tricky area, rife with scammers, so-called ‘gold farmers’, and fraud (there’s a reason eBay has largely banned them). But that doesn’t negate the fact that there are lots of people who’d like to sell their virtual goods. Bodega is going to be fighting a long uphill battle here, but if it can pull off a unified, safe platform, there’s plenty of money to be made.
Bodega rose from the ashes of urTurn, a startup we covered last year that looked to reward users for their actions on Facebook. It’s worth pointing out that Sendo was convicted of wire fraud a decade ago and was later forced to wrangle with the SEC over violations involved with InternetMoney.com (Sendo settled by agreeing never to deal with penny stocks).