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

Virtual asset sales

HIIT starts new research project in collaboration with CCP

HIIT I am happy to announce that we are starting a new virtual economy research project at HIIT. The project has an excellent lineup of collaborators from the industry: Nokia Research Center, Finnish digital media company SWelcom, casual game community Playdo, and MMORPG company CCP Games. Below is the press release.  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

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

Virtual property in television shows


Concept art from Virtual Me by EA/Endemol This Monday, Electronic Arts and the television production company Endemol announced a partnership to develop a concept they call Virtual Me (press release). It basically sounds like an online service where you can re-enact popular TV shows with other users using personalised avatars. Endemol is responsible for formats such as Big Brother and Deal or No Deal. In a similar effort, MTV last year launched Virtual Laguna Beach, a virtual world based on a "reality" TV show.

To some extent, the sudden interest in turning everything to avatars and virtual worlds may be due to the Second Life hype. But there is also substance to it. In the teenage virtual world Habbo Hotel, re-enacting television shows has been a popular pastime for years.  Read more

When scarcity is threatened

Cosplayers (CC) JanneM An executive from Shanda Interactive has been handed a sentence in a Chinese court for creating virtual assets out of thin air and selling them through accomplices to players. This is according to PlayNoEvil's report of a story in China Daily yesterday. The copying took place in The Legend of MIR II, a popular Korean MMORPG operated in China by Shanda.

The story helps to highlight how the value of virtual assets is often based on their artificial scarcity. Many virtual assets are positional goods, meaning that their value is derived not from their absolute attributes, but from the relative advantages they confer compared to other goods of similar kind.  Read more

MMORPG players can pay with blood


We have all heard about real-money trade of virtual property — but how about paying in real blood for your virtual stuff? Players of the Chinese MMORPG Cabal bleed half a litre to get their banned accounts back.

Thanks to Lassi ;)

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 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

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

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