Facebook Tries “Pay Later” for Virtual Goods

By  |  Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Here’s a wild semi-rumor from Inside Facebook’s Josh Constine: Facebook is quietly testing a “Pay Later” feature for virtual goods in games like Farmville.

In other words, when you want to buy a bunch of Farm Coins, but don’t feel like fishing out your credit card, Facebook will let you build up real-life debt and then send you a bill.  I say “semi-rumor” because Constine cites unnamed sources, but has plenty of screenshots and details to back up the story.

A pay later system would help Facebook get around the mental barrier of buying virtual goods. Giving away the product and sending a bill might ease more people into microtransactions, and once they’ve settled the debt, their credit card or Paypal information is on file to allow for easier payments in the future. Make paying for stuff really easy, the logic goes, and more people will be willing to buy.

Constine says there’s doesn’t seem to be a limit right now on how much people can buy without paying, and there aren’t any penalties for ignoring the bills. I’m sure that’ll change if Facebook rolls out the idea to more users. Perhaps the site will threaten to suspend delinquent gamers or remove their accounts entirely. (Somehow I doubt we’ll see collection agencies coming after people who invested too heavily into their virtual farms, but you never know.)

One other hurdle Facebook would have to deal with: Kids. You needn’t look far for horror stories on children who run wild when their parents’ credit card information is on file. Unless Facebook builds in some parental controls, I can only imagine the danger of requiring no payment information whatsoever.

Then again, this could be a great way to teach kids an early lesson on debt.

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