Have you heard of Project Entropia? Me neither. It’s a massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs) that apparently has a couple hundred thousand users. Their particular shtick is that that you can spend real money in the game:
The Entropia economy lets gamers exchange real currency into PED (Project Entropia Dollars) and back again into real money. Ten PEDs are the equivalent to one US dollar and typical items sold include iron ingots ($5) and shogun armour ($1.70). Gamers can theoretically earn money by accumulating PEDs through the acquisition of goods, buildings, and land in the Entropia universe.
This is a smart move. Most of the other games have a kind of grey-market economy, using sites like eBay and PlayerAuctions to exchange goods and services. The gaming companies tend to frown on this, but clearly Mind Ark, the company behind Project Entropia, has embraced this virtual economy.
I learned about Project Entropia because of this BBC article, which discusses a virtual real estate deal worth $26,500. As the article notes, MMPORPG “have a gross economic impact equivalent to the GDP of the African nation of Namibia.” I wonder how many people make a sustainable revenue from MMPORPGs. This reminds of a recent, enjoyable Cory Doctorow story on Salon, which is concerned with the effect of globalization on virtual worlds.