Virtual goods have been described, researched, and debated to a tiring level. The use of such goods for identity expression and goal attainment is clear. Beyond that, gifting of virtual goods allows for ingratiating oneself to friends while similarly demonstrating status and capability. While these are certainly predictable and time-tested motivations for inspiring user action, I am surprised no one has ever built into virtual gift markets a feedback loop of unmitigated self-interest.
Currently, if I were to send someone a Facebook gift, they receive a cute little icon to display on their page and maybe I do or do not get public credit in the community for sending it. All told, not a lot of value has been shifted around and thus, it is no surprise that they don't sell more of these little $1 doodads.
Yet, imagine that every time I bought a virtual gift for someone, I was simultaneously entered into a drawing to actually win a real one of those items. Send someone a virtual jetski and a real one may just show up in your driveway! This could work for a wide range of items including the most obvious jewelry, cars, and cash value type prizes. However, it could also work for sports and music items. Users give each other gifts from their favorite teams and and bands and suddenly they have won tickets or memorabilia. Maybe for certain prizes, the recipient shares in the winnings. The permutations are countless.
In fact, I actually believe that the underlying "prize" doesn't even need to have much value. The web sometimes forgets how much people still love to receive snail mail. None of us enjoys bills and junk. But, oh how we enjoy finding a padded envelope containing something for us. Even if it truly just a token, prizes in any form excite us.
Looking forward to seeing who is going to make this happen.