Business Week is catching up with us. Their cover story is about virtual worlds. They delve into the cases of people earning real money from virtual commerce. For example: a 35-year-old former factory worker in Norwich, England, who chose to stay home when he and his working wife had their third child. He got on Second Life for fun and soon began creating animations for couples: when two avatars click on a little ball in which he embeds the automated animation program, they dance or cuddle together. They take up to a month to create. But they’re so popular, especially with women, that every day he sells more than 300 copies of them at $1 or less apiece. He hopes the $1,900 a week that he clears will help pay off his mortgage. “It’s a dream come true, really,” he says. “I still find it so hard to believe.”
From the Digital Money perspective, I think this may be missing the point. It is certainly important to note the growth of virtual worlds and the size of their economies. But what fascinates is the virtual currencies. What would happen if, say, kids begin to settle out of game transactions in virtual currencies? Perhaps in the long term it is not the trading of virtual currencies for “real” currencies that will have the biggest impact but their substitution.
Still, in the short term, the so-called RMTs (real-money trades) that occur across the border between the real and virtual worlds keep growing so that’s where business is focused now. Incidentally, Aneace pointed me to a post about using virtual currencies as the “cashback” or reward currencies for payment card transactions. It has to happen. And for any credit card issuers checking in, you can get 200 World of Warcraft gold for a dollar at the moment.
As an aside, here’s a paper on virtual worlds that I wrote last year: I hope it might be a useful introduction to the subject, please feel free to pass it on to anyone who doesn’t get it.