If you had any doubts as to the kind of influence wielded by Farmville, the animated Flash game that has become popular on Facebook, here’s a statistic that should erase them: In just two days since the launch of a new valentine gift feature on Monday, Farmville users have sent about half a billion virtual presents to other users — and it isn’t even Valentine’s Day yet. According to Zynga, the creator of Farmville, the game has more than 72 million registered users.
All Facebook reported early Wednesday that Farmville users, who plant crops and raise animals on their virtual plots of land, had sent 220 million virtual gifts to each other in 18 hours (Valentine gifts are free, although other things within Farmville can cost money). A check with a press spokesman from Zynga found that in the 48 hours since the launch at 6 a.m. PT Monday morning, more than 475 million had been sent. “We sent about 255 million yesterday and about 220 million the day before, for a total of about 475 million,” Lisa Chan said in an email.
Even though the valentines themselves didn’t cost money, the size and power of these kinds of virtual economies (Farmville players helped to raise $1 million for Haitian relief efforts) have led many to wonder what they can tell us about online spending in other ways. Journalist Chris O’Brien, for example, wrote a post recently at the PBS Media Shift blog asking “What Can Virtual Goods Teach Us About Paying For News?” and noting that virtual goods are expected to be a $1.6 billion market this year.
So what can Farmville teach us about the digital economy? If nothing else, it shows that making it easy for people to give each other presents can get you to some rather large numbers in a hurry.
Related content from GigaOM pro (sub req’d):