PlaySpan is one of the leading virtual-goods marketplaces. Mark Rose, PlaySpan’s VP of Product Development, presented PlaySpan at Monday's TechRadar by showing how the service worked inside Turbine’s Dungeons and Dragons On

line MMORPG. In an effort perhaps to shock players of traditional offline video games, Rose showed how easy it is to pause the game, enter PlaySpan’s virtual goods store and buy items and level-ups -- the ideal impulse buy.

For traditional gamers, this might be seen as cheating, but for everyone else in the world, it is one of the hottest emerging markets.

Ask Zynga.

PlaySpan estimates that Americans spent around $30 million on virtual goods during the 2009 holiday season alone. Overall in 2009, 1 in 12 Americans bought a virtual gift, and the total market was worth an estimated $1 billion, with an average purchase price of $3 per good.

PlaySpan is aggressively expanding its overseas presence, which is a must for the major players in virtual goods. In Asia, for example, the sale of virtual goods in 2009 was 7 times the amount sold in the U.S.

To monetize, Rose says that services selling virtual goods need to make purchases easy, expand international audiences and extend their footprint across platforms and devices.

PlaySpan is used by more than 1,000 online games, and the goods available on its platform can be paid for using more than 85 different payment platforms. Players can also buy game goods on PlaySpan’s site, as well as on its Facebook and MySpace portals.

Earlier this month, PlaySpan partnered with Adobe to be the payment service for Adobe’s Shibuya developer platform. PlaySpan also has partnerships with other major brands like Nickelodeon, Hi5 and THQ.

By Mark Alvarez