Well played, American Express. Well Played.

American Express acquired a virtual currency platform and in-game payments provider Sometrics today.    Some-who?  Basically, here is what Sometrics does:  It’s in-game payments platform powers virtual currency transactions and payments for game publishers. On the flip side, it also serves users with targeted offers based on their location, demographic, conversion history and social affiliation.

It’s only a $30 million deal, so it might not get the attention it deserves.  But it is a big deal and here’s four reasons why.

First, it allows American Express to fully integrate and solidify their Serve digital payments platform. They have partnerships with carriers like Sprint and Verizon.  They have partnerships with gaming companies, but with Sometrics they now have the real and virtual payment platform. The gaming transaction circle wrapped up nice and tight.

Second, for incoming gamers, they now have Serve as a payment option, getting them into the American Express card member pathway.  And visa-versa–American Express members can now funnel their gaming payments through a trusted source.  And if you don’t think that’s a viable revenue stream, let’s look at one tiny, tiny example of gaming revenue:  20% of Facebook users, that’s about 150 million people, spend an average of $35 monthly on games. Then, in a truly apocalyptic move, all those Facebookers (Facebookites?) switch to Serve by American Express?  That’s about $5.25 billion dollars.  And, let’s say all gaming virtual currency is now funneled through Serve/Sometrics?  Just add another $836 million to the bottom line.  Not too shabby, not too shabby at all.

Third, worldwide total cards-in-force was reported at 94 million in the American Express Q2 results. Sometrics however currently reaches a total global audience of more than 225 million consumers.  I’m just sayin’.

Fourth and finally, it gets American Express into the virtual currency business.  Virtual currencies are real, with real economic and cultural impact. You’ve heard me talk about BitCoin before, which can also be termed a “community currency”, but there are many, many more.  In fact, the entire Virtual Currency industry has a total value of approximately $2.2 billion dollars.   And, better yet for American Express, most are associated with gaming.  And even better?  According to August, 2011 data from mobile analytics firm Flurry, more than two-thirds of mobile in-app purchases for games on iOS and Android go towards buying consumable items — and that, for the most part, means virtual currency.

They go on to say that this mimics many of the purchasing trends seen in other types of games, such as those on Facebook and an increasing number of MMOs — not to mention World of Warcraft.  To put that into perspective,  as of today,  the median price for 20,000 WoW (World of Warcraft) Gold is $48.8

And for the gamers themsevles, 2/3 of which prefer the pay-for-use model over the subscription model, it means a very easy experience with little to no gamus-interruptus. 

And that’s why I say, well played American Express.  Well Played.




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