Exchange of virtual goods and money

So Station Exchange goes live, I honestly thought it would never happen! But I can’t believe I haven’t discussed this virtual economy issue here at all! So in my spirit of taking a step back, let’s discuss.
Where to start? Now we cannot discuss this without mentioning the virtual economy guru, Edward Castronova who must have been the first to recognise the importance of virtual economies and markets. Google him and you’ll hit almost every media story or conferance discussing these topics. He found a way…or at least a suggestive way of looking at the relevance of vw economies vs. real world economies. He’s an entertaining writer as well so don’t hesitate to look at the papers listed on the right here!
To boil it all down….it’s all about time play combined with worth combined with ‘value of life’ (if I remember correctly). Now….ever since reading his papers, I’ve stumbled upon words such as gold farming and virtual crime, let me see if I can sum this up in a few sentences, ey? Ok….you play an avatar in an MMORPG, and you acquire virtual property and money along the way. The longer and more you play the more property, skills and money you pocess. Now! You can trade within these games. How to get real money? Auction sites such as E-bay. But soooooooooooo many problems have evolved cause of this, that SOE has decided to create this Station Exchange place. What do I mean by problems? Well, say I went to e-bay to get some simoleons (The Sims Online Currency), found some (LOL, very cheaply cause TSO sucks) and I have to coordinate with the seller a time and place for the exchange in The Sims Online, but the real (debateable) money has to be given to the seller first. Where are my guarantees that the seller will ever show up at our agreed place and time?
Well, Sony Online Entertainment feels it has found the solution (and also a way to get some extra revenue) with Station Exchange. Infact, to all you “what’s the fuss about, it’s just a game”, SOE has estimated the Everquest II virtual goods market to be a $200 million market. And I think they’ve been very careful with that figure.

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