The virtual world IMVU announced in October 2009 that it was profitable and on track to generate $25 million in revenue in 2009. Much of that revenue comes from the credits that members purchase from IMVU to buy clothing, accessories and other goods for their avatars. We recently spoke with Cary Rosenzweig, IMVU’s CEO, about how IMVU is different from other virtual worlds and from social networks, and how its virtual goods economy functions. Here’s an excerpt from the full interview:
eMarketer: In what ways is IMVU different from other virtual worlds and from social networks?
Cary Rosenzweig: Unlike Facebook, which is about managing your real-world contacts,IMVU Credits is a place where you meet new people from around the world, in addition to bringing some of your current friends. We have 40 million registered users so far. And we have the world’s largest catalog of digital goods. That’s unique because it’s created by our own users, which has profound implications both for the consumer and for us as a business.
eMarketer: How does IMVU generate revenue?
Mr. Rosenzweig: Over 80% of our revenue comes directly from the consumer. This has allowed us to not only ride out the economic downturn in the past year but, in fact, do quite well in it. The balance is advertising. The advertising is a combination of managed offers—where consumers will agree to trial offers from advertisers, and those advertisers will pay us money for that and we will pay the user in credits—and more traditional forms of online advertising.
eMarketer: What sorts of engagement metrics do you track?
Mr. Rosenzweig: People typically get on twice a day for over 30 minutes each. We get well over 80,000 people using the service simultaneously. I think our record this summer was 92,000. We get over three-quarters of a million chat sessions per day, and about 175,000 virtual items are sold every single day. In fact, we’re more like an e-commerce company than a media company in the sense that we get our money from the purchase of these virtual credits that people use to buy virtual items.
eMarketer: Why are virtual goods so important to your users?
Mr. Rosenzweig: In the past 30 days over 35,000 different people have sold at least one of their items that they created to at least one other person in IMVU Credits. They’re extremely prolific, very creative. They create more than 4,000 new items every day.