Monday, April 25, 2005

Enter the virtual economy

Sony is about to open Station Exchange, a shop for virtual goods in Everquest, one of its most popular online computer games. The idea behind the website is that users will have a sanctioned site where users can exchange their game goods. For example, if you buy a level 50 character, or a Flaming Sword of Justice™™, then you can do it with the certainty that you will indeed receive the items and will not be subject to a scam, which apparently happens in "unsanctioned" auction sites. Online auction sites are filled with the sale of virtual items that are only available to players that have put a lot of time and effort in obtaining them. These cost money, and there is a real-life economy of virtual goods and characters. The real reason for this new site is that Sony has realised that there is money to be made here, and they want a piece of the action.

There is little doubt that the virtual economy is growing. According to Terra Nova, the virtual economy is worth between $4 billion and $7 billion USD, equivalent to the economy of Namibia or Jamaica, depending on which figure you take. I must admit that I am extremely skeptical about these figures, so I will reserve my comments until there is a more thorough study conducted. Regardless of my doubts, the value of the virtual economy is significant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can't help but think Sony are making a dying gesture to their subscription base in the last remaining online licenses that they haven't managed to totally cock-up (yet).

"Please, hardcore gamers don't go - you truly can make a living out of playing EQ we don't mind that you are able to completely destabilise an in-game economy through your propensity to glitch your way to lvl65"

I can see the "Make £70k a year playing games" guide appearing more frequently on ebay now...

Sony has the touch of death in any MMORPG title (EQOA and SWG to name two) and time will tell whether or not this move is a good one.

Certainly would be nice if other MMORPG’s devs take note so I can sell my characters without fear of reprisal under their flimsy EULAs.