Virtual Monday? How Holiday Shopping Has Included Intangibles.

Cyber Monday reached a record-breaking level this year with more than $1 billion dollars spent online, making it the heaviest U.S. online shopping day ever.

Those estimates, provided by comScore, include any transaction conducted over the fixed Internet, either from home or work.

That means the record-breaking year also included the intangibles in our lives that you can’t touch or feel, and can’t ship in a box, like e-books and music, and virtual goods, such as a Gingerbread House or a Poinsettia to brighten up your FarmVille home for the holidays.

While likely still a small percentage of the $1 billion-plus in sales (comScore wasn’t willing to break down the numbers), companies like Zynga that develop many popular social games on Facebook didn’t waste any time taking advantage of the shopping frenzy that hits the Monday after Thanksgiving as people return to work and click to buy.

Sales spiked as Zynga kicked off the week with a new holiday lineup. On FrontierVille, users were offered mystery animals, like a polar bear wearing a Santa hat and a penguin sporting a reindeer hat. The second most popular decoration of the day was a blanket of snow for the player’s homestead. It also debuted holiday cheer in FarmVille with a winter horse-drawn carriage and a Santa Gnome as two of the top-selling items.

But it wasn’t all about decorations. On Monday, Zynga offered its most expensive virtual item in FarmVille’s history. The so-called “Unwither Ring,” which has been offered only two other times, costs 250 in Farm Cash (roughly $40). Players who are willing to splurge will never have their crops wither again–a situation that occurs if you show up to plow too late. And if you are looking for something special for that certain someone, the Unwither Ring is also available as a gift.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based PlaySpan, which offers monetization platform services to 1,000-plus online games and social networks, was willing to be a little more specific about Cyber Monday’s spike. Sales of PlaySpan’s game card–available in North America at 7-Eleven, Rite Aid and other stores–were up 69 percent on Black Friday, compared to the previous week. Its corresponding marketplace, which features virtual goods, also reported a substantial increase in purchases over the weekend. The bump in sales increased 11 percent from Thursday through Sunday, compared to the same period a week earlier.


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