Updated on 12 March 2009.
A virtual economy is generally taken as being the exchanging of virtual goods in a virtual world, just as it reflects how a real economy works in the Real World. However, there are times when the line between Real and Virtual economies can bleed together, when players exploit "virtual" goods in order to profit from their deeds in the "real" world. Here is an amalgamated list of some well-known (and perhaps some not so well-known) instances of where the line between "real" and "virtual" becomes a little too blurred for some.
Perhaps one of the more famous and recognised of in-game items to be sold for real world money and certainly well-known to Warcraft players the world over, this came as a very rare card as part of the WoW Trading Card game and the chances of procuring one were very slim indeed. A quick eBay search for said item and then putting the item order with the highest prices first reveals that the card is very expensive, with the "Buy It Now" auctions ranging from $700 to $1,500. All the card did was give you a code which would then let you purchase an in-game mount for your online avatar/character. So yes, $1000-odd would let you ride around on a see-through tiger, in a game, on the internet. But it does look so, so awesome.
Entropia Universe is a multiplayer online game in which players may opt (as the game itself is free) to pay real world money for an in-game currency (Project Entropia Dollars - or PED - of which the exchange rate is fixed at $1 USD = 10 PED), so a part of what makes the game attractive to players is the possibility of earning real money for playing an online game and in a legitimate manner. The vibrant economy also seems to encourage people to spend ludicrous amounts of cash on items in this virtual world, with the greatest example being Club NEVERDIE, singularly THE most expensive game item (in any game ever, not just Entropia) ever sold for real money. As you can see from the list, it tops it, with 1,000,000 PED of game currency actually being $100,000 USD, an incredible sum. What this got the buyer (famous online personality Jon "NEVERDIE" Jacobs, more on whom, later) was a space-station located on an asteroid in the game, which he then turned into the "number one virtual nightclub in the world".
A renowned procurer of fine in-game wares, Jon "NEVERDIE" Jacobs is legendary for his in-game monetary grandiosity. As you've already read, he owns the most expensive virtual item in the history of the world, but not only does he own this, but he owns several other incredibly expensive items to ever be sold in the Entropia Universe game, including a banking license (Bank License #3 on the list) so that he could then be in a position to run one of the first banking institutions to exist completely inside a virtual realm. The license set NEVERDIE back a cool 900,000 PED, or $90,000 USD. In a fantastic display of decadence, NEVERDIE also paid $10,000 USD for a single green egg, which was an extremely rare reward for the Atrox Egg Hunt, the best part is that no one knows what the egg does! Even NEVERDIE himself understood that it was absurd to pay $10,000 USD for a virtual egg, but he bought it anyway, so he could display it in his club as an attraction. To quote Futurama's Hedonism Bot: "How decadent!"
To some, EVE Online might seem like a dull game in which people fly little ships around in space, mining bits of rock or shooting other, smaller spaceships into tiny pieces. To those that actually play EVE, it's an intrinsically complex game, full of intrigue and subterfuge, interspersed with Great Wars between factions involving thousands of carefully coordinated attacks and counter-stratagems. However, it is the Titans, incomprehensibly expensive and gigantic ships, capable of using EVE's ultimate weapon, a Doomsday Device, that stand out as being the most impressive singular entity in EVE's universe. The Mittani, a loquacious, well-read individual and also a prominent figure in one of EVE's factions, gives an interview in which he equates the costs of a single Titan ship (ISK being the currency of choice in EVE) to roughly $6,000 USD, an understandably impressive amount for something which floats around in space, shooting things...In a game.
Unfortunately, it's not all coolness, decadence and glory in the world of online money trading, as things can go horribly wrong:
In 2005, a Chinese gamer by the name of Qiu Chengwei stabbed and killed fellow player Zhu Caoyuan over an in-game item. The game was Legend of Mir 3, a then-popular online game set in a fantasy world where players fill the typical roles of wizards, warriors and priests. Chengwei had acquired a particularly powerful item known as a "Dragon Sabre", which he then lent to Caoyuan, who then went on to sell the sword for approximately $650 USD, making Chengwei furious enough to seek him out in real life and stab him to death.
Written by Hannah at money.co.uk
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