I have been thinking about the economics of Online Games (specificly MMORPGs) for some time. Most of my interest comes from writing my undergraduate dissertation which was more of an overview of the future of MMOGs than any specific focus. Lately, and most importantly with EVE Online, economics has shot into the public eye.
First CCP Employed an Economist, Dr. Eyjólfur Guðmundsson, which as it turns out is probably the first time an Economist has been employed to study and create reports based upon an ingame economy. Dr Guðmundsson has already posted a blog item about the Mineral Market in EVE Online although he describes it himself as more of a “statistical overview” than an in-depth study.
I am certainly not alone in my interest in Virtual World Economics as there is at least one “research network” who actively post about research found on the internet and in acedemia. A good number of posts over the past few years over at Terra Nova have considered the implications of applying real world economic principals to Virtual Worlds, Edward Castronova wrote a book about them, of which I have a copy which I still haven’t read.
The thing that facinates me most is probably they way you can maniuplate a virtual world’s market and not get sent to prison for it. You can collude with other players to fix prices buy up entire stocks of a particular item only to put it back on the market again at an artificially inflated rate! I am sure that people reading this who play EVE would say that that is unfair or even worthy of outwrite wrath. However who is to say that it is a bad thing? it all leads on to the Good vs. Evil argument and the question “is it wrong to do something in a virtual world just because it is wrong in the real world?”
So what does the future hold for virtual economys, well I can see lots of research comming from big university’s… I mean why wouldn’t they, if an economy such as EVE Online’s can act so much like that of the real world why not use it as a economic study. I also expect real world corporations to start accepting virtual economy “experence” as a creadable experence for job applicants. This has already started happening with MDs and CEOs of small technology companies getting the job because of past leadership experence within World of Warcraft.