anna balint on Sat, 2 Feb 2002 01:18:01 +0100 (CET)

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Date: 2/1/02 9:44:05 PM

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Date: Thur, 31  Jan 2002 19:22:20 +0100
From: H S <>
To: nettime <>
Subject: <nettime> Virtual world grows real economy
Precedence: bulk
Reply-To: H S <>

The World's No.1 Science & Technology News Service
Virtual world grows real economy

13:30 28 January 02
Will Knight

A computer game played by thousands of enthusiasts over the Internet has
spawned an economy with a per-capita income comparable to that of a small
country, according to new research by a US economist.

The online fantasy game EverQuest lets players create and control
characters - or avatars - within a fantasy world called Norrath.
Characters gain skills and possessions that they can then trade with other
players using the game's currency of "platinum pieces". However, many
EverQuest players have found this process too complicated and have instead
opted to sell their assets for real money though trading web sites such as

Edward Castronova, of the economics department at California State
University at Fullerton, studied thousands of EverQuest transactions
performed through eBay to determine the real-world economic value
generated by the inhabitants of Norrath.

Castronova discovered that Norrath's gross national product per-capita is
$2,266. If Norrath was a country, it would be the 77th most wealthy in the
world, just behind Russia.

Valuable currency

Castronova also found that Norrath's virtual currency is more valuable in
the US than the Yen. And his research shows that EverQuest players earn an
average of $3.42 for every hour spent playing the game.

"It's a robust, free-market economy filled with wealthy, hardworking
people," Castronova told the online news service CNet. "What you see with
EverQuest is that economies happen by themselves. If you get a bunch of
people together and they have things they can produce and opportunities to
exchange them, you've got the makings of an economic system."

However, he notes that not all the assets are converted into real-world

Future of e-commerce

Castronova says that EverQuest's economy can be studied like any normal
economy, even though Norrath is a fantasy world. This is because of the
social importance attached to the game by its players.

Castronova believes that virtual worlds like Norrath could eventually
become more closely linked with the real world. "Virtual worlds may be the
future of e-commerce, and perhaps the internet itself," he says. "Ordinary
people, who seem to have become bored and frustrated by ordinary web
commerce, engage energetically and enthusiastically in avatar-based online

Launched in 1999 by Sony, EverQuest is one of the largest role playing
games on the internet. According to Sony, the game has 400,000 users in
total, with up to 60,000 inhabiting the game at any one time.

13:30 28 January 02


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