Edit: Ogrr.com is currently in beta and invite only. It will be opening to the public in the very near future.
When you first visit Ogrr.com, your initial impression is that you've stumbled across your average Internet discussion forum. After a few seconds, however, you begin to realize that you're looking at something bigger - much bigger.
$7.3 billion in global revenue in 2010 and, according to Powell, the market could be worth as much as $16 billion in 2012. He explains how his site is different and why users will prefer Ogrr over existing sites:
"There are a few other sites like this one that are well-known in the gaming world. The idea for a marketplace forum with a built-in currency isn't anything new. What's new about this forum is that we're using Bitcoin as the forum currency and we allow our members to cash out their holdings at any time. Other forums have operated on closed forum gold systems that do not allow cashing out, which is great for the forum owner but not so great for the users. Some even go so far as to ban users for merely mentioning the existence of trades with external currencies."
The demographic that Ogrr is targeting is male and generally between 18 and 30, though players have been known to be as young as eight and as old as eighty. "It's kind of a hard figure to determine," says Powell, "because the kids aren't usually the ones doing the purchasing, but maybe that will change with Bitcoin."
"Tons of people still have never heard of Bitcoin or only have a vague idea of what it is. We need to change that."
- Jesse Powell, Ogrr.com
Competition is steep, with the likes of d2jsp.org, a forum with 650,000 members and an Alexa ranking of 17,931 in the United States, holding a huge share of the market that Ogrr is trying to tap into. d2jsp operates with a currency called "Forum Gold," which, unlike Bitcoin, can never leave the site.
To take a stab at the competition and win over users that have a lot invested in other sites, Ogrr is prepared to pull out the big guns. By offering one free Bitcoin to each of its first 1000 users and an additional Bitcoin to the first 1000 users who can sign up ten friends, Ogrr hopes to grow its membership quickly. This strategy, Powell emphasizes, is an attempt to realize the site's primary goal of expanding Bitcoin's userbase, something he says is desperately needed. "Tons of people still have never heard of Bitcoin or only have a vague idea of what it is. We need to change that."
For those of you who are not familiar with the concept of virtual goods, Jesse Powell runs us through some of the possibilities:
"Some examples of virtual goods are platinum in Everquest, mounts in World of Warcraft, and runes in Diablo 2. The most I've ever seen anyone pay for one item was about 10 years ago in Diablo 2: $2000 for a v1.08 Arkaine's Valor (then out of print). In games like Second Life, Project Entropia, and EVE online, virtual real estate sells for much more than that; tens of thousands of dollars and more. Some people spend more of their free time in the virtual world than they do in the real one so you can understand why they'd be willing to expend what may be a small amount of real world capital for a large amount of virtual world power and status."
Powell's justification for bringing Bitcoin to the virtual goods community is hard to argue against:
"[The market] is huge and it's growing fast. Bitcoin allows us to take payments and not have to worry about chargebacks which have plagued virtual goods sales since the very beginning. Historically, to take a (generally) irreversible payment such as Western Union or a bank wire transfer, it meant exorbitant fees that made small transactions cost-prohibitive.
As you know, when you deliver a virtual item, you're left with no verifiable evidence that you've done so and it's very simple for the buyer to claim that they've never received it, or that their card was stolen, or that their child made the purchase without their permission. It's this not having to worry about chargebacks that allows us to store Bitcoin on behalf of our users and allow them to trade and cash out at any time. If we had to worry about deposits being reversed, there'd be no way we could allow users to make withdrawals. Bitcoin solves this problem."
Ogrr has certainly pulled out all the stops to create a service that, by leveraging the advantages of Bitcoin, will definitely make the competition nervous. Whether Jesse Powell and his team of five at Payward can take a bite out of the multi-billion dollar market and grow Bitcoin's userbase remains to be seen. This is a project, however, that will certainly excite the Bitcoin community.
Jesse Powell resides in San Francisco, California, and joined us from Shanghai, China.