EIGF: Virtual cash – new world order

Rough notes from panel produced by Aleks K from The Guardian Gamesblog, and chaired by Ren Reynolds of Terranova fame.

irtual cash – new world order: chair: ren reynolds (terra nova)

discussing the huge sums of money that is changing hands between players in virtual worlds

the idea of taking virtual items as property, what are the implications

who is trading, what, why? how much do they make – do they make a living?
up to $100k a year trading items
is trading stealing from the games company?
is commoditisation ruining the games?

tape of ed castronova

(great mockup of The Sun shown: “blair surrenders uk to everquest)

the inside (in-game) economy, and the outside economy – happening on ebay etc – bourses for virtual property.

inside > outside atm, but outside growing rapidly.

moores law growth rate for outside economy = doubling every 18th months.

the scarcity (and hence the value) is entirely constructed by the designers of the worlds.

EQ character = $300 on ebay
jedi character in SWG: >$2500
it’s very hard to become a jedi… scarity is designed…

the diamond/water paradox [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond-water_paradox]
value is subjective and created by society

division of labour / corporatisation emerging in VWs
famring monsters in EQ

jamie hale: “gaming open market” [http://www.gamingopenmarket.com/] – based in canada, 1st money market for MOGs.

buy and sell currency. dealer sites like IGE (http://www.ige.com/)

no/poor tools for assessing deals / trades at ige or ebay?
trying to make it safe and easy for players.

RR: what types of people are doing this
launced xmas 03, 27k active accounts, 1k active traders, 275k traded so far, 150k in the last 2months.

4 classes of clients : 1st you might consider ‘cheaters’ – trying to buy an object to get status or achieve a game goal quicker. they are buyers… sold to by ‘resellers’ like IGE, who are getting ‘farmers’ / ‘sweatshops’ to make objects.

legal side: grey areas: greg lastowka:
rutgers

virtual property != intellectual property

not to do with copyright law, though there is an inlfuence, but not a 1:1 mapping

copyright can protect the music, images, and code associated with the object. does not protect the illusion of ownership.

ebaying a sword might be a violation of the EULA/contract

player-created virtual objects raise real legal issues.

if you let players create IP, then you risk infringing others IP (i.e. someone building a mickey mouse scuplture or singing a brtiney spears song)

EMbracing virtual property can be done, but get a good lawyer…

Who owns my lightsaber? Sony does.

this is a good thing.

if players really owner their swords and castles then dragons would have to be regulated by the state (complainging that they were made too powerful and damaging property values etc) and that would make games very boring… litigation is already happening around such disputes.

issues when real-world profiteers seize on a virtual world:
customer support, detriment to game experience

dupes exploits and cheats

if there is a theft, from where was the property stolen?

EA guy – not doing anything about this, acknowledging or policing this because of one big issue: what happens to the secondary value of the virtual objects when for business reasons the developer has to pull the plug on the game world?

jamie hale: contacted a bunch of games publishers/developers: heard absolutley nothing back

EA guy: trying to tell you something by not calling back. there’s no revenue stream of the right scale for publishers… EA rule: $1, $5back, not possible through this.

Jamie Hale: IGE are making $70-$100: 50-100 people in hong-kong ‘sweatshop’

Linda MacKellar: EULA creation – remember that it’s a service not a product that is being offered… don’t piss people off. make the rules explicit though.

EA guy: seems riduculous that rules could control this. it’s like the real world. a bully gets taken out by a bigger bully and that’s how it works in MOGs as well. Things should get dealt with by the community rather than the pubslishers lawyers. “talk about $1, $5 back… send a bunch of lawyers into Ultima to write a bunch of rules? For the love of pete!”

RR: shouldn’t the games industry be working with people jamie to protect consumers in secondary markets?

EA: UO: Once, a couple of years back, a flotilla created a blockade of a harbour, and starving a town. the inhabitants called up EA asking for help. We fixed it in the fiction, by creating a storm. people got pissed off, because we changed the rules. That’s whhat pissed more people off than the starvation/blockade.

GL: tech solution to law: UO: offered pk and non-pk servers to stop complaints about player-killers.

RR: does the commoditsation & law creeping into these games affect the nature of the games that will be developed?

0 comments
  1. BDK said:

    What needs to be done is far from simple. It seems to me that this virtual economy is only going to grow. I here there are 400 MOGS in development. So basically the MOGS will balloon and then merge and you’ll be left with about 10 – maybe 12 dominant MOGS in about 10 years. First, establish a form of currency and regulate it. Take a look at real world international currency laws and apply them to the MOGS. Create a program and do it. Second, Police bad Moggers. You need to set up some secret opps within games use AI and kick some ass. If some little guy walks up to you in MOG play and stabs you with some little pen and you wake up stripped of all your worldy posessions, who do you complain to? Fellow Moggers, the Gods, who? You either stole, cheated, or somehow got caught doing something you shouldn’t do. People take great offense to the hand of God coming down out of the sky and changing the MOG, who wouldn’t? You spend three or four years building up a character or creating a situation within a game and see how you like when your world is taken down with a few strokes of the keyboard. You’re probably going to be angry right?

    There’s my two cents.

    Peace In MOGS – Nipps

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