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Matei

Real Value of Virtual Items in MMORPG's

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I'm sure many people have seen this article before (it may be fairly old), but I just stumbled on it today: Click Here. Apparently EverQuest had a higher per capita GDP than India at the time, and came in as the 77th richest country in the world. As Internet use becomes more widespread, it might not be surprising if some games become as real a money-making tool as, say, betting on sports or buying stock options, although it is pretty disturbing to have to design something for people who might be that obsessed by it. Do you think that it's feasible to make a game which really strives to be a second world? I can imagine something like cash payoffs for reaching a certain level to give people an extra incentive to get started before the economy begins, but even just running a normal MMORPG with good security features could work if someone tried it. There are people who are *very* willing to work hard for virtual status symbols that have no real value. In Runescape, for example, "Party Hats" (a joke item originally added on a Christmas Day, I think) sell for several millions (more depending on their colour), much more than the best armor/weapons, and they give no stats boost at all, prevent you from wearing a helmet at the same time, and could be obtained for free on the day they were given out. [edited by - Matei on May 18, 2004 9:47:04 PM] [edited by - Matei on May 18, 2004 9:47:38 PM]

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Sure. Especially if you get a good crafting system, you could have mnaster smiths or enchanters with shingles hangin gin front of their shop reading, "We Accept Gold, Trade or PayPal". Why not?

I think it would be sweet to work for months to build a really terrific suit of armor, with each component maxxed out on quality and imbued with various magical properties, and then sell it to some adventurer for $500. Awesome. That''s the next few months of gameplay, anyway, and since everyone is basically paying the provider, you could even have lines of credit. "I''ll give you this dirk of illumination if you pay my bill next month," and authorize a contract with the system so that the other dude has to pay double, and you get a free month. With a small "transaction fee", this could be a real cash cow.

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While it is amazing that Everquest''s economy can be given a numerical value, you have to understand that Everquest''s economy doesn''t export to any other country. All of the money that moves in real world countries is because of black marketing and smuggling. It''d probably be impossible to change some of economic value of Everquest into real world greenbacks. You can only sell that stuff to other Everquest players.

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Not entirely correct. I am sure there are plenty of people on E-Bay selling their characters or items or whatnot. Diablo II had it, I can''t see any reason why Everquest would not.

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quote:
Original post by NecroMage
Not entirely correct. I am sure there are plenty of people on E-Bay selling their characters or items or whatnot. Diablo II had it, I can't see any reason why Everquest would not.


yes, people sell Everquest items on Ebay for, to me, ridiculuous amounts. the point of the previous poster was that these items don't actually leave the everquest world, and hence only have numerical value within the everquest world. i.e. you can't sell an everquest item to someone who doesn't and will never have involvement within the everquest world. if everquest were to go away your items would instantly lose all value.

[EDIT: as a side note, vaguely relating to the OP, it would be interesting and perhaps lucrative to design an MMOG that allows players to use some mechanism like PayPal to add to their virtual coffers. "I'm low on money in game, lemme just spend $30 to buy another 1,000 gold pieces". I don't know if it would be possible to balance the in game economy with links to the outside world like that (runaway inflation would probably be a direct result), but if someone could figure it out, they'd probably make a lot of money...and hand their soul to the devil, but i digress]

-me



[edited by - Palidine on May 19, 2004 2:05:23 PM]

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quote: "While it is amazing that Everquest''s economy can be given a numerical value, you have to understand that Everquest''s economy doesn''t export to any other country."

Sure the video game''s economy gets exported to the real world, people are paying real world money to trade those items! If you paid me $10 to see me perform a live play, it wouldn''t matter that you didn''t receive anything tangible from me. You paid me real money, therefore my action has real value.

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quote:
[EDIT: as a side note, vaguely relating to the OP, it would be interesting and perhaps lucrative to design an MMOG that allows players to use some mechanism like PayPal to add to their virtual coffers. "I'm low on money in game, lemme just spend $30 to buy another 1,000 gold pieces". I don't know if it would be possible to balance the in game economy with links to the outside world like that (runaway inflation would probably be a direct result), but if someone could figure it out, they'd probably make a lot of money...and hand their soul to the devil, but i digress]



Check out the game Project Entropia for an example of this. The game can be played for free, but in-game money can be transferrred to the real world (a back again!). Kinda buggy though.

//EDIT: fixed link

[edited by - kazgoroth on May 20, 2004 4:43:36 AM]

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quote:
Original post by EvilSteve
Sure the video game''s economy gets exported to the real world, people are paying real world money to trade those items! If you paid me $10 to see me perform a live play, it wouldn''t matter that you didn''t receive anything tangible from me. You paid me real money, therefore my action has real value.


No, theres no doubt about that. American dollars can be exchanged for most anything in the everquest world, but thats because the person wo paid you derived value from your playing. See, lets pretend that I have a painting by Picasso thats obviously worth lots and lots of dollars. Now, take a painting by some nobody, but its just as good as Picasso''s work. The difference is in desire-to-own. For example, you could sell that Picasso painting for $20 bucks and a bag of dorittos if you wanted. And the nobody painting could sell for hundred of thousands if you found someone that really wanted it. Thats what I mean by the real world value of everquest. It only has any value to the people that play everquest. To the real world, the only money it generates is from your monthly registration fee.

Also, just to clarify the concept of wealth. With something like paintings, Picasso''s paitning are of worth because he is dead and there are a limited number of paintings left. If Picasso, through some miracle of science, were revivied and started painting tomorrow, and made a new painting every day, the value of all of his work would drop. Like wise, if you made an MMORPG and sold ingame items for real world dollars, you''d run the risk of devalueing the items, since theres a point where users would by enough of these items to start trading it themselves beyond the scope of the game''s owners. And then, $20 for 1,000,000GP. $200 later you have an extra 10,000,000GP availiable in the gameworld. Compare this to the economy of germany before the second world war and you''ll find a disturbing similarity.

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I''m not an economy expert, so I could be totally off on this. If I understand you right, you''re saying that the entire net worth of the Everquest economy could not actually be "cashed in" and converted into a real world currency. You''re saying that this would not be possible because as masses of players would trade their game currency, the game currency would begin to devalue relative to real world currencies because there would be a surplus of the game currency and fewer people left in the EverQuest economy. But wouldn''t this same situation occur with a real world country? If very large amounts of people started cashing in their US dollars for Canadian money, wouldn''t the US dollar devalue? The first people to cash in their money would receive what was the "full value" of that money at the time they cashed it in, but as people cashed their money in, the net worth of the US economy would drop, and people cashing in money after them would not receive as much Canadian money in exchange. If I''m right, then all it means is that the game money would devalue in the same way as a real world country''s money would devalue if a large portion of the economy''s money were to be cashed in at one time. So I still don''t see how Everquest money is any less exchangable than a real world country''s money just because it is capable of devaluing under the exact same circumstances that a real world''s country''s money would devalue.

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I don''t think you can say that money or items in a game have any real value. Sure, they do have a value as long as someone is willing to pay for them. But if you ask me those items don''t even exist so they can''t really be worth anything. What guarantee do you have that the next time you try to log on to the game you will not find out that the game servers have been shut down because of this or that? Ooops. Your real value virtual items you paid $1000 for yesterday does not exist any longer. Too bad.

I cannot understand why someone would actually pay real money to buy an item in a game. Personally I hate all these EQ driven games (funny that EQ could be both EverQuest and Equipment) or level driven games for that matter. What''s the fun in buying stuff in a game? Oh well...

- Benny -

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quote:
Original post by EvilSteve
So I still don''t see how Everquest money is any less exchangable than a real world country''s money just because it is capable of devaluing under the exact same circumstances that a real world''s country''s money would devalue.


Oh, your thinking it totally correct, the american dollar would be worth jack if everyone wanted canadian dollars. What I''m getting at is that the only real world value any thing in Everquest has is dependant on who would buy it. Less and less everquest players, less and less people to buy things.

Note that in the real world, you could put everything you own in to a uhaul and drive it up to canada. In Everquest, you can''t take your possessions with you. They''re only of any worth within everquest''s world. If you can''t convert it to an american dollar (ebay) then the economic value of whatever it is in everquest you''re trying to unload is worthless.

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quote:
Original post by benstr
I don''t think you can say that money or items in a game have any real value. Sure, they do have a value as long as someone is willing to pay for them. But if you ask me those items don''t even exist so they can''t really be worth anything.


Is gold valuable? Only as long as people are willing to pay for it. Is a theatre show valuable? People pay hundreds of dollars for something that doesn''t exist after they''ve watched it. Is software valuable? If it comes right to it, software doesn''t exist either, it''s just a pattern of high and low voltages. It would disappear tomorrow if your harddisk crashed.

The value of a thing is what people will pay for it.

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King of men is exactly right. People at Projet Entropia make and sell thing in their virtual world and then convert that money to real money. The reason is some people are willing to spend real money in this virtual world becuase they enjoy it, even if it is a complete waste of money. Their are people who pay money for Runescape Autominers because it gets them ahead in ther game and therefor makes it more enjoyable(in theory). Movies, and arcade games and amusment parks are the same in that way.

-CM

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quote:
Original post by Palidine
[...][EDIT: as a side note, vaguely relating to the OP, it would be interesting and perhaps lucrative to design an MMOG that allows players to use some mechanism like PayPal to add to their virtual coffers. "I''m low on money in game, lemme just spend $30 to buy another 1,000 gold pieces". I don''t know if it would be possible to balance the in game economy with links to the outside world like that (runaway inflation would probably be a direct result), but if someone could figure it out, they''d probably make a lot of money...and hand their soul to the devil, but i digress][...]


GunBound.net has such a feature - it is a free game, and you can earn in-game money by beating other players and getting in good shots etc. You can also pay money to the makers to get ''cash'' in game. ''Cash'' you get from paying real money and ''gold'' you get from winning are not the same, but you can buy in-game items with both (there are some gold-only items though).

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