Real-world trading based on virtual items is at least three years old, but it’s only now that researchers have estimated that online trading already rivals the gross domestic product of some small countries. According to an article publishing on NewScientist.com, the real figures are likely to be much higher, where virtual worlds are booming in China and Japan
The technology of real-world economies is based on the value of persistent world game characters and items. For example, you can buy Ultima Online and EverQuest characters on eBay, exchanging actual money for ‘imaginary’ game items, such as clothing and weaponry. Nevertheless, trade in these digital goods continues to grow, and it has already gone from being a pastime pursued only by a handful of hardcore gamers, to being a fledgling industry in its own right.
There’s even an online service to help players of online games trade their commodities more easily and freely. The Gaming Online Market (GOM) is a Canada-based online venture founded by Jamie Hale and Tom Merrall that aims to be the first true stock brokerage for online worlds. GOM currently allows players of online games to pay in US dollars, or exchange currency from one game to another at the current going rate. Before now, these have been trades restricted mainly to eBay auctions, along with all the risks associated with such transactions. Having said that, eBay facilitated the selling of $9 million in trades for Internet games last year (excluding Sony’s Everquest).
The coming together of real and online worlds has a far more widespread reach than games. For instance, virtual spaces will increasingly be used as assembly points to carry out business meetings and as physics simulators to experiment with building physical objects. Some companies are also using virtual worlds to try out design products, such as clothes, before attempting to market them in the real world.