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

EVE Online Fanfest, QEN, and research co-operation with CCP

The fourth EVE Fanfest, an event giving the EVE Online players an opportunity to meet each other and the game developers, was held in Reykjavik 1. - 3. November. There were two interesting revelations in the event, which also sparked discussion in panels and roundtables, a part of which I’ll try to summarize here. The first one had to with a soon-to-be-published white paper on the EVE player democracy, and why it actually might not be wise to call it democracy after all. The second was about the soon-to-be-published EVE Online Quarterly Economics Newsletter, Vol.1, No.1.  Read more

Academic journals publish special issues on virtual worlds


I am late in relaying this, but Electronic Commerce Research and Journal of Electronic Commerce Research are both planning a special issue on virtual worlds. The CFPs (attached below) sent to the VERN mailing list are so similar that at first glance I thought it was the same journal. JECR's deadline is this Thursday already, but you might consider submitting a modified conference paper. ECR's deadline is December 1st. Both issues should come out in August 2008.  Read more

Research on Habbo Hotel: The Ugly Duckling


New Japanese furniture in Habbo Hotel Nicolas Nova over at Terra Nova blogs about an interview of Sulka Haro, a lead designer for Habbo Hotel. Habbo Hotel is a virtual world in the same league of popularity with World of Warcraft. Using the Linden definition, Habbo Hotel has some 80 million "Residents", far outclassing Second Life. Where, therefore, is the research, asks Nicolas Nova.

My HIIT colleague Mikael Johnson has collected an extensive Habbo data consisting of interviews, surveys and fansite records during the past few years. He's currently writing his dissertation about user-developer dialogue and hasn't published much about the data yet. Here are a few links though.  Read more

In-game RMT platform receives USD 6.5 M in venture funding


PlaySpan is a company offering a transaction platform for MMO publishers that wish to integrate microtransactions and real-money trading into their products. Now they say they've secured USD 6.5 M in venture funding. Worlds In Motion has the story.  Read more

Teen world Gaia Online appoints economic advisors


Chatting in Gaia Online CNET News.com reports that Gaia Interactive has appointed Michael Boskin as the chairman of a new "Council of Economic Advisors" for Gaia Online, a sprite based virtual world slash community site a  Read more

Bridging East and West at Game Developers' Conference China


I'm writing this at Shanghai Oriental Riverside Hotel, where the first ever Game Developers' Conference China has just ended. By all accounts the event was a success: there were over 2000 visitors at the exhibition and some 800 attendees at the conference. The exhibition part was largely about outsourcing, recruitment and training, but also showcased neat Asian titles like the phenomenally popular online dancing game Audition. All the big Chinee MMO companies were present, as well as EA, Ubisoft, CCP and others.

For me GDC China was particularly interesting because of the emphasis on online gaming typical of China. I was able to contrast the more theoretical musings of State of Play V last week with practical insights from game developers. For example, there were discussions on how to make Chinese titles palatable to the Western audience and vice versa; World of Warcraft's big success here shows that it's possible. This is a practical approach to "bridging the East and West" that SoP V called for but didn't yet deliver so much.  Read more

MMORPG RMT and sumptuary laws


Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at the Bal Costumé of 12 May 1842 At some point during the discussion described in the previous post, Joshua Fairfield wanted to contest the status value of high-level characters by arguing that there is no correlation between the the level of a character and the skill of the player. Be that as it may, I think he eventually conceded that there may still be status value, if for no other reason than that the player has spent a lot of time leveling, and is thus a member of what Joshua called "time aristocracy" (which I think is an excellent term by the way).

We can question the status value from our own standpoints ("they are just kids with too much time"), but it is nevertheless real for some MMORPG players and may be worth protecting by operators that wish to cater to that segment. To explore this point a little further, I thought I would re-post a comment I left in a Terra Nova discussion long time ago.  Read more

The efficient level of RMT in MMORPGs


The efficient level of RMT

I am not intensely interested in MMORPG secondary markets that exist despite the operator's wishes, and I certainly don't have any agenda of legitimising them. But after the last SoP V workshops yesterday there was a rather lively coffee table debate on RMT in MMORPGs that resulted in a neatly economistic re-telling of that story. I'll try to convey the tale without misrepresenting the particpants too much.

Already during one of the panels Joshua Fairfield reminded us of the positive aspect of RMT: trade creates welfare gains ("Every time you stop someone from trading, God kills a kitten", as he politely put it). Richard Bartle obviously wouldn't have any of that and brought up the negative aspects, centering on the violation of the achievement hierarchy associated with character levels.  Read more

State of Play V is over


State of Play V I'm writing this at Singapore's Marina Mandarin Hotel, where the State of Play V conference has just finished. In all aspects the conference managed to exceeded my high expectations. There were several interesting panels with some new and suprising speakers, new ideas and even some critical analysis.  Read more

Currency intervention in Second Life - Analyses and doomcasts

The Ludvig von Mises institute, an advocate for the Austrian line of economic thought, recently published an article in which Matthew Beller analyzes the Second Life (SL) economy. I’m happy to see such work done on virtual economies, and published on a forum that I suppose also some mainstream economists read.

There are also some other analyses of the SL economy available. Randolph Harrison has previously written an article that’s somewhat related to the Beller’s article, both of them dealing with Linden Lab’s tendency to intervene in the “foreign exchange” markets of Linden Dollars, the internal currency of SL.  Read more