After Hours

Virtual economies translating to real world success

<img src="http://img.cbsi.com/i/tr/techmails/stock/0130_it_money.jpg" title="Virtual economies" alt="Virtual economies" align="left" height="110" width="85" />There is plenty of money to be made in cyberspace, but more and more people are finding themselves able to trade success in a virtual game environment for very real dollars. From <i>World of Warcraft</i> to <i>Second Life</i>, gamers are increasingly finding that they can sell characters, equipment, or even space that they hold in the virtual worlds for real world cash. Even though only a small percentage of people make a living from their online play, at least one academic, Dr. Richard Bartle of Essex University, claims that gamers may soon be able to make more money than the game designers themselves. One company that specializes in trading virtual currencies estimates that the market for such transactions will hit $7 billion by 2009.

Virtual economiesThere is plenty of money to be made in cyberspace, but more and more people are finding themselves able to trade success in a virtual game environment for very real dollars. From World of Warcraft to Second Life, gamers are increasingly finding that they can sell characters, equipment, or even space that they hold in the virtual worlds for real world cash. Even though only a small percentage of people make a living from their online play, at least one academic, Dr. Richard Bartle of Essex University, claims that gamers may soon be able to make more money than the game designers themselves. One company that specializes in trading virtual currencies estimates that the market for such transactions will hit $7 billion by 2009.

Virtual worlds, real money (CNN)

One of the most popular online hangouts for teens, Gaia Online, has recently announced a council of economic advisors that includes a chairman who is on the Board of Directors for Exxon/Mobil and Oracle and even advises sovereign governments on economic issues. This move has included a redesign of its virtual marketplace to make it more accessible and usable. In Second Life, its "Virtual Bernanke," John Zdanowski, has implemented several measures similar to actions the Feds take in the real world to keep the virtual currency viable, even though the site recently prohibited gambling, which reduced the world's economy by 50%.

Gaia Online Launches Council of Economic Advisors, Revamps Marketplace (PRWeb)

Economist explains move to virtual world (CNET's News.com)

Virtual Bernanke Guides 'Second Life' (Forbes)

The virtual economy is interesting to me, not because it could allow me to play video games for a living, but as someone interested in the evolution of virtual worlds and seeing those worlds intertwine with the real world. I have been watching the evolution of the Internet since the early '90s, and I truly enjoy seeing the creative ways people are coming up with to profit from this new medium.

Are you in a place to reap some of the real dollars people are paying for virtual constructs? Have you paid for some of these constructs yourself? What is your relationship to the virtual economy?

6 comments
Andy Moon
Andy Moon

Do you sell characters, equipment, or other items in virtual games? Do you see yourself doing this in the future?

JamesRL
JamesRL

That people think that a cash shortcut is the way to happiness. I don't play a MMORPG, but I play a game where you accumulate points and get awards and better weapons. I earn everything I get and I don't get the "thrill" aspect if you didn't earn it -where is the sense of accomplishment. We have people in the game who buy hacks to the game - so sad. James

pyroracer
pyroracer

Some people dont have the time to do the grind but want to enjoy other aspects of the game (higher levels, better dungeons, equipment etc.) But dont have the time to do the tedious grinds these games put forth prior to that. Of it being sad and pathetic well depends on your viewpoint. On 1 hand yes it can be a shortcut to happiness on the other it can be a smart thing to do. As an example if you're earning $20+/hour and 100game currencys is going to take you a couple of hours if not days to save up. But you have an option to buy 100credits for $5 you may want to go that route. Especially if very repititious and boring segment parts of the game design is required to accumulate those credits. Or as an example i've had an NFL player level his character for us during his training season bec. He didn't have the luxury of time to level his second character bec. he wanted to try a priest as compared to his shaman. I believe game design has a lot to do with it.. with ratios of time spent:satisfaction gained.

pyroracer
pyroracer

I have a farm covering 200 servers and sell gold to wholesalers who then resell gold to retailers. (World of warcraft) If anyone is interested you may reach me at pyroracer@gmail.com

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

But I just don't see spending real money to buy virtual real estate, or virtual "possessions" in general for that matter. Not to mention, knowing that there are kids in my own city who are hungry, I can't feel very good about spending real cash to obtain a +20 vorpal sword of ethereal-coolness...

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

if it glows when Trolls or Grues are near, it may be worth its weight in Vorpals :) Stop, Pay Troll!

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