While it is common to players to sell virtual goods in massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), I've never before heard of so much money being shelled out for virtual goods.
Project Entropia is different from most MMORPGs in that players don't pay monthly fees to play the game and can download the client software for free. Instead the developers sell virtual tools and arms that you need inside the game for real cash. And in this case they even sold an entire space resort.
The new owner can make money by renting out the 1,000 apartments on the property, its mall and billboards. He gets to tax for hunting and mining rights. And all that money he can change back into real dollars.
But the buyer has few guarantees that his investment will be worth anything. What if developer Mindark of Sweden tomorrow decides to pull the plug on the game? What if a space invasion tears down the apartment complex?
The game developer allows the laws of the economy to kick in by auctioning all goods. But what's next? Nothing is keeping the game developer from staring a bank that creates loans for the games' currency: the Project Entropia Dollar (PED) (which has a fixed exchange rate of 10 PED for one dollar).
Last month a gamer was arrested in Japan for hacking into a computer game and robbing fellow players. Now if you hack any game, I would target a thriving economy like Entropia's – so far $150 million was spend in 2005. While the hacking is illegal, no laws prohibit a mugging in the game because nothing is actually being stolen.
Am I the only one that starts to have visions of The Matrix here?
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