I was pretty surprised to see social media blog Mashable is ‘utterly baffled‘ by someone investing a record $330,000 in a virtual space station in the online MMORPG Entropia Universe, despite the fact they themselves quote figures of $600 million invested in virtual worlds in January 2009 alone, and the $2 billion virtual economy in China.
Don’t forget back in 2004, David Storey paid $26,500 in Entropia, then Jon Jacobs invested $100,000 in a virtual space station in Entropia in November 2005, and of course Anshe Chung became a millionaire via Second Life in 2006.
Apparently both David and Jon have made their money back and more. Meanwhile back in 2004, Julian Dibbell wrote Play Money: Or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot about his attempt to match or increase his income by trading in Ultima Online – he also wrote a great blog about the experience.
What’s surprising is that the Mashable author, and probably 50% of those commenting, still express disbelief that investing in a virtual good can be worthwhile, despite the fact that we’re all happy to discuss investments in websites, or even in media companies. If your media company goes bust, you might get a share in a building and some outdated PCs locked on a defunct corporate network, but the real value is in the minds of the employees – another virtual asset!
And given the economic climate, I’m not sure I’d count any investment as being comparitively reliable – but the move is certainly towards investing in ‘idea’ companies. And of course, the rapidly expanding, already massive, social gaming companies such as Zynga. Pervasive gaming as entertainment is here, but pervasive gaming as a legitimate, recognized career follows whenever a game is designed to allow the exchange of goods by players (or the players themselves find ways to exchange – e.g. Ebay).
It’s another hugely interesting impact of gaming as the interactive entertainment medium which has risen up to compete with traditional entertainment forms (TV, radio, print), and at the same time powers so many new entertainment forms (Facebook’s gaming population is massive, as one example).
After all, in checking back through this blog’s archives, I’ve invested around 3 years in this version of the site, which only exists virtually on my hosts servers, and on a hard drive backup.