Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Byte: Expensive habit

I thought I spent too much on videogames... well, my outlay is nothing compared to the $100,000 a player just spent on a virtual space station in the MMORPG Project Entropia.

I haven't quite decided yet whether this is an instance of a rampantly entrepreneurial spirit or simply lunacy. Project Entropia is unlike most MMORPGs in that rather than having a virtual economy, Project Entropia uses real money. In order to get Project Entropia Dollars (the cash used in-game) you need to stump up *real* cash. So all commodities bought in the game are worth money in the real world and can be sold on to other players for a real world profit. Interestingly, there is no fee to get ahold of the game client, nor are there any monthly subscription fees, so I wonder where they make their money...

In fact, I wonder how the game economy manages to work at all. Since the pool of money resident in the game no doubt entirely resides within player community and the amount of cash the 300,000 or so players have pumped into the game, could this be the first example of a videogame pyramid scheme? I'll have to email the developers and see if I can arrange an interview with them to see how they plan on sustaining the game's economy over the long term.

$100,000 dollars is a lot of money to fork out for anything, let alone a virtual space station. Okay, sure, the owner has 1000 apartments on the space station he can now let out, has full hunting and mining taxation rights, plus 100 lease deeds for the space station shopping mall, and so on, but can this really be worth that much money? You've also got to hope that the game server isn't hosted on a flood plain or something. Imagine the litigation if the server suddenly got wiped out, and 300,000 players started hammering the developer's door down because they wanted their money back...
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