PageFad Partners With Virtual Greats to Add Branded Players to Facebook Sports Games

It’s telling of our modern world that the famous often cease being people and become tightly controlled brands. This brand control can make life difficult for others: for example, sports games, where only a few favored titles are allowed to use the names of real players, and the rest must struggle along with made-up names.

PageFad, a Facebook sports game developer, can’t solve the existential problem of commodified personalities, but it has at least found a workaround for its game Premier Football, by partnering with a company called Virtual Greats to add celebrities and real soccer players to its game.

Virtual Greats has dedicated itself to getting branded virtual goods into social games. In this case most of its “brands” are in fact people, including both recognizable soccer players like David Beckham and, for Premier Football users who aren’t big soccer fans, non-players like Snoop Dogg.

These branded players will be premium purchases only, and they won’t come cheap, ranging from about $5 to $20. PageFad co-founder Josh Viner says the price point isn’t a problem, though. “A lot of our users convert at higher price points, and we sell more at higher price points,” Viner says. “That’s because the users are very competitive. If we can present them with a value proposition of instead just asking them to spend pounds to train their team, they’ll be more willing to pay.”

Virtual Greats’ CEO, Dan Jansen, further breaks virtual goods purchases into three categories: aesthetic-only goods, which players won’t pay much for; goods that show affiliation or have a concrete use, at the mid-point; and an item with special powers and a recognizable concept at the high end. Jansen says individual virtual goods can have a high price ceiling; for instance, a branded good in another game has been selling for $50.

Brands, for their part, have been excited about the action on Facebook. We’ve seen a number of entertainment brands head online of late, and Disney is of course trying to capitalize on social gaming through its Playdom acquisition.

But teams like Virtual Greats and PageFad are still pretty rare. One reason may be the history of brands in core games, where brand owners were often extremely difficult to work with, allowing big companies like Electronic Arts to get near-exclusivity for games like Madden NFL (which is now also on Facebook).

However, many of the market forces that made companies like EA hugely powerful offline don’t apply on Facebook, so it’s possible that the Virtual Greats model could grow significantly in the future.

As for PageFad, the company intends to keep working on its sports titles. Premier Football, like other sports games we’ve looked at recently, includes both city-building and management elements; you can check it out here.