News, research and discussion on virtual goods, currencies and economies globally.

Government rumbles, Chinese virtual money markets stable for now

Tencent QQ penguing mascot with Q coins A couple of weeks ago it was reported (via PlayNoEvil) that China aims to restrict the trading of virtual currencies that have become popular as a payment method even for third-party services. According to the joint announcement of 14 Chinese government agencies including the Ministry of Public Security and People’s Bank of China, virtual currencies should not be used to buy real commodities and can only be traded back to real money for amounts not exceeding the original purchase price, eliminating any opportunity for profits.

This is the most severe notice so far in a series of growing government attention to the use of virtual currencies and real-money trade of virtual property in China. At the time of writing, however, RMT markets seem to be operating as usual. For example, Taobao lists thousands of sell offers for Q Coins, the virtual currency of Tencent QQ. I dug a little bit into Chinese language sources to find out more about what’s going on.  Read more

How big is the RMT market anyway?

Monopoly money -- photo by goat_girl_photosQuite a few very different estimates of the volume of real-money trade of virtual items (RMT) are available. Part of the reason for the different estimates is the very rapid growth of the user base, and the number of potential real-money traders, in virtual worlds.  Read more

A Quite Profitable Virus

A worm virus (targeted to steal passwords for the ubiquitous QQ service and other game accounts)with the logo of Xiongmao Shaoxiang (Panda burns joss-sticks), has hit millions of computers in China since November 2006. According to Xinhua, BEIJING, Feb. 13 Police Monday arrested eight suspects involved in producing and disseminating a severe computer virus. It was the first case related to the spreading of computer viruses in China. The virus writer programmed the virus on Oct. 16, 2006, and made more than 100,000 yuan (13,000 U.S.  Read more

Meetings in meatspace

Japanese sukiyaki meat -- photo by LHOON Despite the achievements in immersive virtual worlds and other network-mediated communication, for many purposes there still is no substitute to being there in person. I think this is especially true when making new contacts and when cultural boundaries are crossed. Here is a brief review of som

e upcoming events.  Read more

SOE releases white paper on Station Exchange

Yesterday, Sony Online entertainment (SOE) announced the findings of a white paper on their official EverQuest II virtual property auction site Station Exchange. What’s interesting, there are now verified numbers of RMT available. The findings of the paper are based on data collected during the first year of operation of Station Exchange: from its launch in June 2005 to June 2006. From the numbers in the press release, it seems that most of the transactions were quite small, and most of the virtual assets were sold with a set price instantly.  Read more

Sweden taxes virtual property proceeds… as does everyone else

There’s a story ricocheting in some English language news sites about Sweden’s plans to impose taxes on income from virtual property sales. The original source seems to be Swedish Radio Ekot. The news may seem startling to some, until one realises that such income is already taxed in Sweden and in other countries. From Ekot:  Read more

A new QQ service–iTQQ

As Vili introduced before, Tencent QQ is the dominant form of instant message for online communications in China. It supports instant messaging, games, and other value-added services, all of which are paid for with Q-coins. With the usage of Q-coin, you can buy everything from QQ sausages and clothing to QQ credit and debit cards, which builds the QQ virtual world. According to Virtual China, there is a new QQ service called iTQQ.  Read more

eBay bans virtual property auctions?

Game asset auctions on eBay - soon to be history? According to an original article on Slashdot, a representative of eBay has confirmed that they are delisting auctions on “virtual artifacts”, said to include currency, virtual items, characters and accounts. Neopoints from Neopets are specifically mentioned, but I wonder if this applies to non-game virtual property such as ICQ numbers? From Slashdot:

Mr. Hani Durzy, speaking for eBay, explained that the decision to pull these items was due to the ‘legal complexities’ surrounding virtual property. “For the overall health of the marketplace” the company felt that the proper course of action, after considerable contemplation, was to ban the sale of these items outright. While he couldn’t give me a specific date when the delistings began, he estimated that they’ve been coming down for about a month or so.  Read more

Sweden to set up embassy in Second Life

House of Sweden in Washington According to Sweden’s largest newspaper Dagens Nyheter, Sweden is planning to set up an official embassy in Second Life. Modeled after the House of Sweden in Washington, the building is to be the virtual world’s first official embassy.  Read more

Human resources

In my last post, I said I would have a small announcement to make. Well, here it is: our research group at Helsinki Institute for Information Technology has welcomed two new economics grad students to work on virtual economy issues. In the coming weeks, Tuukka Lehtiniemi and Jiaping Xu will be blogging here about their research and things taking place in the field. Let’s wish them success in their work.  Read more