|28 Jan 2002 @ 17:22, by Flemming Funch|
New Scientist has an article about how the players of the online game EverQuest have created a real economy, buying and selling virtual items for real dollars on eBay. And how playing that game puts you in a better economic spot than the everage citizen in many countries in the world. I know the phenomenon well, as my son does just that. It is a different online game, called Asheron's Call, but it is quite amazing what some of the virtual items go for on eBay. What is interesting is the implications for what en economy really is, and how any kind of activity can become economic activity, even if nothing is physically produced.
Virtual world grows real economy
13:30 28 January 02 Will Knight
A computer game played by thousands of enthusiasts over the Internet has spawned an economy with a per-capita income comparable to that of a small country, according to new research by a US economist.
The online fantasy game EverQuest lets players create and control characters - or avatars - within a fantasy world called Norrath. Characters gain skills and possessions that they can then trade with other players using the game's currency of "platinum pieces". However, many EverQuest players have found this process too complicated and have instead opted to sell their assets for real money though trading web sites such as eBay.
Edward Castronova, of the economics department at California State University at Fullerton, studied thousands of EverQuest transactions performed through eBay to determine the real-world economic value generated by the inhabitants of Norrath.
Castronova discovered that Norrath's gross national product per-capita is $2,266. If Norrath was a country, it would be the 77th most wealthy in the world, just behind Russia.
Castronova also found that Norrath's virtual currency is more valuable in the US than the Yen. And his research shows that EverQuest players earn an average of $3.42 for every hour spent playing the game.
"It's a robust, free-market economy filled with wealthy, hardworking people," Castronova told the online news service CNet. "What you see with EverQuest is that economies happen by themselves. If you get a bunch of people together and they have things they can produce and opportunities to exchange them, you've got the makings of an economic system."
However, he notes that not all the assets are converted into real-world cash.
Future of e-commerce
Castronova says that EverQuest's economy can be studied like any normal economy, even though Norrath is a fantasy world. This is because of the social importance attached to the game by its players.
Castronova believes that virtual worlds like Norrath could eventually become more closely linked with the real world. "Virtual worlds may be the future of e-commerce, and perhaps the internet itself," he says. "Ordinary people, who seem to have become bored and frustrated by ordinary web commerce, engage energetically and enthusiastically in avatar-based online markets."
Launched in 1999 by Sony, EverQuest is one of the largest role playing games on the internet. According to Sony, the game has 400,000 users in total, with up to 60,000 inhabiting the game at any one time.