It tells the tale of how “social” game makers, especially for handheld devices, are scientifically manipulating the user to get them to spend real money in the games.
I personally don’t play any of those things, and have never spent any money in them, but even so it’s pretty creepy and convincing. The end of the article (don’t skip), suggests that the results can be generalized. Ouch.
A research arm of the World Bank has produced a comprehensive report on the size of the grey-market virtual world economy in developing countries — gold farming, power-levelling, object making and so on — and arrived at a staggering $3 billion turnover in 2009.
Michael Risch’s Virtual Third Parties, 25 Santa Clara Computer & High Tech. L.J. 416 (2009) tips the scales at a mere eleven pages—but it punches far above its weight class. He gives a clear and straightforward reading of third-party beneficiary doctrine in contract law to put a new spin on old problems of online power.
Risch’s subject is virtual worlds, where the immense technical power of the world’s provider is so well-recognized that it has its own shorthand name: the “God Problem.” If Blizzard wants to exile you from World of Warcraft, confiscate everything you own in-world, or stick your avatar in the stocks, their control over the servers lets them do it with a few keystrokes. Your avatar’s arms are never going to be long enough to box with a game god whose software controls arm length.
People have been studying virtual worlds for a while now, but there has been little discussion on the money supply. Currently, most virtual world developers do not publish data on the money supply and so I developed a method in estimating it. Using economic theory and the exchange rate, I was able to check the accuracy of my estimate. After applying my method to World of Warcraft, I believe there is over nine billion gold on North American servers. If that gold were converted to USD, it would be worth $192 million, and if the same held true for all World of Warcraft players, there would be $747 million.
Not close to enough to help with the current banking crisis, alas.