Will people pay real dollars for in-game virtual money to help
their virtual characters buy in-game goods?
One gamer, who goes by the screen name Haylo, said he spent $10
to $20 real dollars a month on in-game platinum(all nonexistent,
of course) to buy weapons and other goods in Dark Age of Camelot
(DAOC), but would spend more if he could afford it.
Most video games have some form of currency. In many ways, the
in-game economy is similar to a real world economy - goods and
services are traded to mutual advantage and are mediated in
currency (platinum, gold, credit,etc.). "With all the things you
can buy in game," a gamer said, "it's hard not to want them,
just like real-life stuff."
The average Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing
Game(MMORPG) player is 27-year-old -- a demographic drooled over
by marketers. Plus, nearly half of all players have jobs, which
often means they have more money than time and are the perfect
consumers of virtual assets. On the Internet, many gamers now
buy virtual money that only exist as data files stored in a
server run by a game company with real-world dollars, and the
buying and selling of virtual currencies may be off most
people's radar, but it is truly big business.
An online broker, who goes by the screen name Rolala, was not a
fan of online games until his 15-year-old son became interested
in EverQuest "as an index, its
game world, called Norrath, would be the 77th richest nation on
the planet, while annual player earnings surpass those of
citizens of Bulgaria, India or China.
Go to GameUSD, an exchange-rate calculator for the virtual
worlds, and do a search for the latest rates of virtual
currencies against the U.S. dollar, and let your jaw drop open.
The rates of some virtual world currencies are even better than
that of the Iraqi Dinar! For instance, here is the recent
exchange rate of several popular virtual currencies:
WOW Gold ( World of Warcraft Gold )
($0.098/gold), Sony Online
Entertainment, on the other hand, encourages the practice
(albeit within the confines of their own "Station Exchange",
their own forum for the sale of in-game properties). It recently
announced the first month's figures from "Station Exchange".
According to SOE, over 45,000 characters from "EverQuest 2" have
been active on the exchange and have spent over $180,000 USD in
one month, half of which have been spent on in-game gold and
Despite of different attitudes towards virtual currency trade,
the number of people who are getting into such business is
rising, and the size of market has been expanding very
rapidly.The market also creates a competitive environment. We
could refer to sites like wow gold price comparison
, a price comparison site, to see the fierce price competition
between different exchange sites.
For some ordinary gamers, however, such a capitalist approach
spoils the experience. Nick Yee, a psychology researcher from
Stanford University, believes many players dislike virtual
currency traders because, by using real wealth to buy virtual
power, "they're breaking the fantasy-reality bubble, getting an
advantage in a way that other players can't".
According to a recent survey by IGN, an internet media focused on
the videogame markets, most gamers say they dislike and avoid
this business, believing that it gives players with more
discretionary income an unfair advantage.
But such attitudes are called into question by size estimates
for the virtual asset trading market, which is seen having a
value of $200 million to nearly $900 million in 2005.
One potential explanation for the disconnection between
attitudes and money spent may be that gamers are unwilling to
admit they use the services, IGN said.
In terms of the law's concern, another issue is, who owns the
virtual money? Many virtual world designers maintain that
anything created in the world belong to the company. They refuse
to recognise the rights of their players in the virtual property
for fear of attracting liability for its maintenance or
But will this work in the long term? Players spend considerable
time and/or money acquiring such assets. In many cases they are
the creation of the player and even the intellectual property
ownership is questionable. "As we spend more time in these
worlds, it's not enough for companies to say that 'we own
everything and we can turn it off at any time,'" said a gamer.
"The question may soon be should we have recourse against a game
company for obliterating virtual assets?"
With the rapid growth of virtual currency exchange market,
should people accord virtual property the same protection as
property in the real world?
About the author:
Steven Golden have conducted research into Virtual Game Economy
for several years.You can read his recent articles at:
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