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

2007: Year of the virtual economy?

The VERN blog has been quiet this month. Rest assured that the reason is not that we have been inactive, but that we have been busy working. In January I hope to have a little announcement to make.

Meanwhile, Steven Davis at PlayNoEvil has posted three excellent articles on virtual economies and plans to regulate them in the Far East. The first one is a Xinhua report on how virtual Q(Q) Coins are increasingly being accepted as a viable currency by Chinese businesses and how the goverment is reacting to this. The second one refers to a Korea Times story providing new details on Korean lawmakers’ plans to restrict RMT. The latest Xinhua article discusses Chinese Ministry of Culture’s regulatory ambitions over RMT.

Does regulation mean the party is over? Will governments step in and sever the links between real and virtual economies? Will games and community services go back to being “entertainment and relaxation, and nothing else”, as one Chinese MOC official puts it?  Read more

A Japanese Case for Law Enforcement on RMT

Chinese student arrested after making 150 million yen selling items for online RPG.

It’s intriguing in that gold-farming connection of RMT transactions with other cheap-labor nations is one of important aspects in every regions which have emerging culture of online gaming including Korea.

Some Korean game experts have been saying that the it is possible to lessen intensive gold-farmings by reference to related laws of many kinds.  Read more

Finally, Korean Government to illegalize RMT

According to an article of a Korean newspaper, if a recent proposed bill named “Amendment for Game Industry Promoting Law” be through the National Assembly, all kinds of mediating businesses between in-game money and real money could be punished.  Read more

World of Darkness MMO: CCP merges with White Wolf

World of Darnkess MMO? Greetings from the EVE Online fan fest in Reykjavik, Iceland. CCP’s CEO Hilmar Pétursson just announced that his company is merging with White Wolf — the U.S. company behind Vampire: The Masquerade role-playing game and the whole World of Darnkess series of IP. Mike Tinney, the president of White Wolf and the soon-to-be leader of CCP North America made an appearance to bless the alliance.  Read more

Significant increases to Second Life land prices

Second Life Island Store Linden Lab announced a week ago that official land prices in the virtual world Second Life will receive a boost. Currently Linden Lab is renting out 16-acre small private islands to users for a one-time set-up fee of 1250 USD plus a monthly maintenance fee of 195 USD. After the change is implemented, the set-up fee for newly rented small islands will be 1675 USD (a 34% increase) and maintenance fee 295 USD (a 51% increase).

In an interview by CNET, Linden Lab’s new CFO John Zdanowski states that the purpose of the price hike is to make renting out land profitable to the company. According to Zdanowski, seven-year-old Linden Lab has yet to turn in a profit. But due to negative feedback from users, the hike is now delayed until November 15th.  Read more

Virtual business ecosystem in legal trouble? China’s Tencent QQ

An avatar in Tencent QQ Tencent QQ, China’s most popular instant messaging service, has been a big interest of mine since I bumped into it in Shanghai. The service works similarly to e.g. MSN Messenger, except that it has a built-in virtual economy based on “QQ coins”. Pacific Epoch reports that the virtual currency has now raised legal concerns.

Users can buy QQ coins for a fixed price of one RMB per coin from Tencent. The coins can be used to pay for premium features, such as decorations for a chat avatar. Coins can also be transferred to other users. In addition to the official premium content offered by Tencent, third parties have begun accepting QQ coins as a method of payment for their services.  Read more

Making sense of virtual property research

VERN is a forum for research on real-money trade of virtual property, but what exactly does that area comprise? There are over 50 entries in the bibliography, from economic analysis to policy studies — is there any pattern or consistency to this work?  Read more

BlackSnow Interactive: the documents

Those who have been following the RMT scene for some time can probably recall the shady company called BlackSnow Interactive (‘BSI’). Like many others, BSI was using computer-controlled player characters (“macros”) and vulnerabilities in game code (“dupes”) to obtain large quantities of game property very inexpensively. According to Julian Dibbell (Unreal Estate Boom sidebar, Wired magazine, January 2003), they also set up a “virtual sweatshop” in Tijuana, Mexico, where unskilled laborers played Dark Age of Camelot (‘DAoC’) in three shifts. (See comments below)

In 2002, BSI became famous for suing DAoC’s operator Mythic Entertainment over the right to sell game properties outside the game. They also threatened to sue Funcom, operator of Anarchy Online, to retrieve accounts that Funcom had frozen for EULA violations. There was some anticipation that BSI’s actions would result in the legal status of virtual property receiving clarification in the U.S.  Read more

Interview with CCP: EVE currency traders "going to lose big"?

EVE Online, the space-MMOG produced by the Icelandic company CCP, is known to have an advanced in-game economy with player-driven enterprises. The economy recently gained a bit of notoriety when the biggest-yet in-game banking scam was revealed, reported to be worth around 700 Bn interstellar kredits (ISK) or more than 100 000 USD at current eBay and IGE prices. I had the opportunity to interview CCP’s CEO Hilmar Pétursson and CMO Magnús Bergsson about EVE’s virtual economy and secondary markets at the Nordic Game conference last month. Below is a transcript of selected parts.  Read more

China’s domestic market for farmed gold booming

Xinhua news agency carries a story with a lot of figures on World of Warcraft gold farming in China. An interesting point is that since half of WoW’s 6 million players are now Chinese, farmers are increasingly able to make a buck in the domestic market in addition to the North American, Korean and European servers.

Via PlayNoEvil  Read more