When Apple launched the App Store, there were no in-app purchases, but it quickly became apparent that some mechanism for buying stuff within an app itself would be needed. I remember thinking a store of virtual gifts seemed like a no-brainer, but the in-app purchase block was a show-stopper.
Kisky Netmedia isn't the first company to enable in-app purchases, of course, but Little World Gifts [iTunes Link] is precisely what you'd expect to evolve on the iPhone: a little store of 3D trinkets which you can purchase and share with friends. Little World Gifts (which we covered a few weeks ago) would be relegated to a "gee whiz" factor were it not for the Facebook component. My purchases appear in the Facebook LWG app (as seen in the gallery below) and from there I can share with my friends who also enable the Facebook app. No iPhone required. Uh oh.
The implementation is simple: you see a series of little shelves with little 3D items, and you can buy them. Some are simply 3D objects you can rotate and zoom in a little staging area, while some have associated animations (none that I tested had sound). You will need a network connection to browse this store, as new items may appear periodically. I found the store pretty easy to use, as most in-app purchases tend to be low friction. Viewing an item is a little tricky sometimes, and you have to intuit to double-tap to bring up a "close this view" button, but the models are quite wonderful to behold.
You can send gifts to people via the app or into Facebook, and there's even a tracker to see who has picked up their gift. As I said, this is the practical evolution of virtual gifting on the iPhone, and via Facebook, frankly. I can envision a raft of new, branded stores popping up, too. Perhaps someday your Sims could wear Abercrombie or your virtual villagers in Pocket God could get a dancing Elvis? I'd be happy to ship toxic waste to Farmville.
Currently the gifts on the store are rather limited and have a holiday theme. I'm sure there will be more items to buy as time goes on, but I'd love to see a "real" market a la Second Life, where users could build their own 3D trinkets and sell them on this store. Hey, maybe we could resurrect the 3DMF format? Who threw that virtual tomato?
The Little World Gifts app is free, of course. The gifts normally range from $.99 to $3.99 or more (or less), but for a short time all gifts are only $.99US to celebrate the app's debut.