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