Friendster opens a virtual market, like everyone else

-Friendster Gifts Icon-Mary Specht is an information architect in San Francisco. You can follow her on Twitter.

Where can you not buy a virtual teddy bear these days? Now Friendster’s hawking pixels, too. Friendster says selling virtual gifts, goods and games is a “proven” revenue model in Asia, where 90% of their audience lives. For China’s part, online gaming revenue grew nearly 40% in the second quarter of this year to $906 million, according to CNET. Recession? What recession?

If you think your special brand of virtual ice cream, squirrel, martini, or teddy bear topped with shiny crown and clutching bright red balloons — how’s that for value added? — would tempt users to open their “Friendster Wallets,” hang tight for their third party payments API.

Facebook, as Nick noted last night, may already have such a payments option for developers. Methods like “facebook.payments.getOrders” recently popped up in a PHP library. Nick suspects an official announcement is in the offing.

No wonder Friendster and Facebook are getting their virtual shops in order. The virtual goods market is a $1 billion pie, says a report from Inside Networks.

Friendster’s Wallet actually has two kinds of currency: one with real monetary value, and one without. “Friendster Coins” are made of real money. “Friendster Chips” are made of ether. They exist to help you get your feet wet with their payment system, provide incentives for special marketing promotions, and as a “loyalty program,” according to Friendster’s press release. And to convince you that, in the shiny new Friendster economy, you’re not quite as broke as you might be in real life.