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Role Playing (Games) Entertainment Games

Real Money Inside in MMORPGs? 417

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the screwball-economics dept.
Cranial writes "Sony Interactive expressly forbids the selling of Everqest or Everquest II ingame items or characters for money, but why? Imagine Massively Multiplayer Games where you can actually cash out your loot in the real world. What if that jewel in the dragon hoard was actually a digital title for the Hope Diamond or a real ancient artifact? This article on Programmers Heaven proposes a new economic model for MM games allowing free exchange of game money and items in the real world. Essentially it is a hybridization between online gaming (casino) and MM roleplaying games. Fascinating concept."
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Real Money Inside in MMORPGs?

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  • by korielgraculus (591914) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:08PM (#6639309)
    Ah ha! I can trade in all my equipment for a used coffee cup!
    • Thats not coffee. ;)
    • by Martin Marvinski (581860) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:27PM (#6639541)
      Less well off geeks who spend lots of time building characters up will sell to a high bidder who has money in real life and therefore the new owner of the character/item will not know how to use it as well as the geek who spent months getting it.

      The game will end up with a bunch of more wealthy less experienced people running the lives of the geeks who spent all their time aquiring the items. The FUN of these games is that ANYONE regardless of status in the REAL world can become someone great. If money from the real world gets involved, that destroys the fantasy because not everyone will be on an equal footing when they start out.

      That is one of the big reasons I think these games are so much fun.
      • Definately... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hogwash McFly (678207) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @06:07PM (#6639944)
        . If money from the real world gets involved, that destroys the fantasy
        I agree, games are a fantasy, an escape from the day to day pressures of reality. If I wanted to see people lie to get money, cheat to get money, choose profit over human compassion etc. then all I need to do is....um, go out the front door.
      • by some guy I know (229718) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @09:25PM (#6641282) Homepage
        The game will end up with a bunch of more wealthy less experienced people running the lives of the geeks who spent all their time aquiring the items.
        No, the game will end up with a bunch of crackers breaking into the system or otherwise using bugs to acquire wealth at the expense of other players.
      • That's all well and good if the nature of the game is just killing things and advancing to the next level. I'm neither a gamer nor an economist, but it's obvious to me that the instant you introduce things of value whch can be traded among participants, the game becomes an economic system like any other - not only will you develop currencies within the game, but an exchange rate will naturally be established with the "real world".

        I just don't get it - if the point of playing the game is to escape real life
      • by pod (1103)
        If money from the real world gets involved, that destroys the fantasy because not everyone will be on an equal footing when they start out.

        They're not on equal footing now. Not everyone has dozens of real world hours to dedicate to the game. That's why I don't play. How is having tons of time different from having tons of money?

  • by agentZ (210674) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:09PM (#6639315)
    So this is like the Hacker Court [slashdot.org] at Black Hat last Wednesday?
  • Duping? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bluprint (557000) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:09PM (#6639320) Homepage
    Has any MMORGP gone totally without duping problems? Not to my knowledge. Star Wars has only been out a month, and already had some (small) dupe bugs.

    When that happens....maybe.
    • Re:Duping? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by boaworm (180781) <boaworm@gmail.com> on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:31PM (#6639589) Homepage Journal
      Well, its not reallyl a MMORPG, but look at Magic Online. The online version of the Collectible Card Game Magic (Wizards.com) [wizards.com]

      You buy virtual "boosters", gain virtual cards, which you, if you collect entire sets, can convert to real paper-cards, with "real" value. And I cant remember seeing any restrictions on selling these for real cash as well.
      • Magic: The Gathering has the advantage that you can "cash out" in real-world decks. So if you find that the online game goes sucky, you can play in real life with your friends. If you find that Evercrack has gone bad, you can just move on.

        But if you have real money invested in a MMORPG, and you feel it goes sour (e.g. parent company start printing "money", rampant duping or other things wrecking the game experience) you don't really have no recourse, nor any way out except trying to really "sell out", whic
    • Even with duping most online economies are very stable (although I haven't seen many duping problems in EQ).

      The real problem is the law. If The EQ pp is given a dollar value, then "real-world" legal issues come into play. I could definitly imagine a case where an expensive item drops (EQ fungi tunic sells for about $195) and there is a law suit because someone unfairly looted the item.

      There is also gambling in EQ. If I can go buy pp, gamble, and cash in my winnings (presuming I win), then EQ becomes a cas
  • There.com (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rask22 (144831) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:09PM (#6639321)
    There.com has a somewhat similar concept. While not strictly an MMORPG, they do allow for the conversion of Dollars into ThereBucks.

    Or at least they used to when I played the beta months ago before they started spamming my inbox.
  • by kmak (692406) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:09PM (#6639322)
    But when Blizzard first came out with Diablo 2 Expansion, I was one of those ppl that exploited an easy level-up opportunity..

    which allowed me to get to level 95 in 4 days.. after that, I went all-item hunting, and just picking up tons of stuff, muling and all...

    and.. sold most of it immediately on ebay.. since it was the only way to do it before cheating/duping and all those things happen, while items were actually worth money, I made about 500$, more than my money back!

    ya.. supply and demand is cool, too bad Sony's soo against it..
    • ya.. supply and demand is cool, too bad Sony's soo against it..

      It's because allowing it encourages hacks, to either create or duplicate powerful items.
    • The problem is that forces a caste system, based on economic status in the real world, which determines your successfullness in the game. Some rich kid could go out and buy the game, and a good character in one day just so he can feel l33t. Whereas some people can't afford to spend more on the game then the monthly cost, are left in the dust.

      If they were to make specific servers where this was allowed it would be great, because then people that actually want to *play* the game can do so. (*hint hint*, Bliz
    • by H310iSe (249662) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:42PM (#6639696)
      Providing cash incentives to pursue exploits is one reason why this is a bad idea. You'd get much more hacking/cheating in a game if people were not only profiting in game-world but real-world also (and it would be 'legal', well, I doubt anyone would go to jail over it at least, just get their game account banned).

      As someone points out down-thread, what little role playing goes on would be further reduced as people focused on the game-as-gateway-to-real-world-(money) as opposed to game-as-gateway-to-fantasy-world.

      However. If you had a nearly hack-proof game (impossible?) and if you had some kind of (nearly magic) game balancing that rewards role playing in terms that could come out as cash (some kind of role playing moderation points system?) then, well, how @#%(*&)! exciting would it be if you finally kill that boss mob you've been working on for a week and low and behold, he drops a diamond worth $50 on ebay (presuming it's not so 1337 you just want to keep it for your character). This would add some of the gambling-adrenaline rush and would be really, really fun. PVP that could cost you cash? I mean, if and when video games combine with the fun/(addictive) elements of gambling god save me and my kind.

      But mostly it's a bad idea. Imagine, if you will, what would happen to slashdot if karma points could be traded for cash on ebay?

      • by switcha (551514) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @06:11PM (#6639974)
        Imagine, if you will, what would happen to slashdot if karma points could be traded for cash on ebay?

        Somewhere in the ramifications of that, is the delicious idea of a "Troll Tax".

      • by nacturation (646836) <nacturation@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday August 07, 2003 @06:29PM (#6640145) Journal
        Providing cash incentives to pursue exploits is one reason why this is a bad idea. You'd get much more hacking/cheating in a game if people were not only profiting in game-world but real-world also (and it would be 'legal', well, I doubt anyone would go to jail over it at least, just get their game account banned).

        Prosecution: Your honor, we are charging Joe User under the DMCA for circumventing a technological measure in our software. We are also further charging he defendent for trafficking in illegal weapons, namely a fully automatic plasma cannon.

        Judge: How do you plead?

        Joe User: Uh [sweating profusely] not guilty, your honor.

        Prosecution: As shown by the evidence in Exhibit A, the defendent circumvented our software in order to profit from his illegal activities. We show that the defendent repeatedly took advantage of what's known as an "exploit" to further his own person.

        Judge: Is this true?

        Joe User: Well, it's like this your honor, I...

        Judge: Yes or No only, please. Remember you are under oath.

        Joe User: Uh, yes I suppose, but...

        Judge: Thank you. Please continue.

        Prosecution: Exhibit B details a listing on the popular auction site eBay for one automatic plasma cannon sold by "joeuser" who, according eBay's records, is the defendent's account.

        Judge: Is this your account on eBay?

        Joe User: Well, yes.

        Judge: And you listed this automatic weapon for sale on eBay?

        Joe User: Uh, you see...

        Judge: Yes or No!

        Joe User: [gulp] Uh, yes, howev...

        Judge: Thank you. This court finds the defendent guilty of posession of a restricted weapon and sentences him to 3 years in federal custody. Also, guilty of circumvention of a technological measure as provided for by the DMCA is punishable by 5 years imprisonment. Trafficking in restricted weapons carries with it a mandatory 5 year sentence. And under the PATRIOT act, as this falls under the anti-terrorism mandate, an automatic 20 year additional sentence. This court remands Joe User to 33 years in federal custody with no chance of parole for 25 years.

  • relation real monkey directly to game money is currently done in project entropia, www.projectentropia.org

    you can put money in the system to get game money, or take game money out of the system as real money. Its been around for a while. think it was mentioned in a story some time ago.
    • You can turn a monkey into money without the assistance of a game, just put it in the classifieds, or perhaps you could find an interested zoo.
    • relation real monkey directly to game money...

      Some Freudian slip. Because you're the monkey if you're dumb enough to pay real $ for stuff in a computer game, the existence of which is dependent on the solvency of the parent company and their desire to maintain the service.
      • by CVaneg (521492)
        if you're dumb enough to pay real $ for stuff in a computer game

        Not necessarily. After all with other video games you pay an upfront cost (assuming you don't bootleg a copy) to gain access to all the content in a game. To take it further, some times people buy expansion packs that add new content onto their existing game. So on smaller scale, it does make sense for some people to spend some amount of money on in game items if they feel it improves their game experience. Now whether or not Johnny shoul

    • Difference (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wrexs0ul (515885)
      Difference though is that you have to constantly buy items in Entropia and they wear over time. The proposed method through Everquest allows for a total externalization of cashflow from the game where items are bought and sold for real money making the only required cost being the couple bucks each month for an EQ account. This way everything you have could be worth money with an actual chance for investment rather than forced degeneration of value over time by the game.

      Mind you I don't like the idea eithe
    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:20PM (#6639468)


      > you can put money in the system to get game money, or take game money out of the system as real money. Its been around for a while.

      Yep, it's a very old idea, commonly known as "the stock market".

  • Yeah... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tediak (249766) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:10PM (#6639327)
    Because this is what roleplaying is all about. Loot.
  • There is There... (Score:5, Informative)

    by BobLenon (67838) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:10PM (#6639336) Homepage
    There (www.there.com [there.com]) is already kinda doing this. You can use your credit card to buy ThereBucks at like $1.00 == ~$T1030.00. In addition to this you can create products - clothing, cars ect that you can sell and make more ThereBucks.

    With ThereBucks you can buy transportation things (buggys, hoverboards) and all sorts of clothing - Some of which is created by There and a lot is created by There users. Theres even an auction system.

    Its pretty sweet.
    • *Sits here and rereads that there post twice and decides that There should change their name, cause it's neither here nor there*
    • by scowling (215030) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:58PM (#6639847) Homepage
      It's kind of sweet, but I found There to be boring and pointles after a couple of weeks. There were only a limited number of things to see and do. There're only so many hoverboard trick contests you can go do beore you wonder what the point is. Vast areas of the world are undeveloped, so you spent endless minutes driving around nearly featureless plains and valleys.

      The signpost system is abused heavily by users, so that other areas of the world have the scenic views disrupted by billboards.

      Completed scavenger hunts are never removed from the field; many ties I completed a hunt only to get to the end of the hunt and to find the sign edited to say that it ended last week (they couldn't be bothered to edit *each* of the signs, or pull them from the world.)

      The member-run trivia nights are a joke; public events where the prizes are given to friends fo the hosts. If you want to give Sally a ball, just give her the ball. Don't go through the rigamarole of running a music trivia event and picking Sally to answer the high-point questions regardless of when she raised her hand.

      "But it's all about social interaction!" you may cry. No, real life is about social interaction. Games are about competing to have fun.
  • by pimpinmonk (238443) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:11PM (#6639340) Homepage
    Although this seems like a "new-economy" idea, I can't say I'm a big fan. Firstly, gambling is 21+ and restricted to certain zones. Secondly, this promotes very anti-social behavior--people crouching away at their computers, beating wombat after wombat to get the extra gold and items. It takes the *fun* out of the game, as well as the *realism*. RPG stand for role-playing-game, and if all you're doing is leaching off of this world to try and make the most bucks you can as your primary form of employment, you may be compromising the fun of the game for other casual gamers.
    • Nothing wrong with someone that doesn't like to socialize IRL. If they get their kicks playing Everquest, what right do you have to tell them not to?
    • While you have a point about the antisocialism, the fun for many would be increased by adding a real-money component. Many games that are pretty humdrum today -- baseball, coin-operated games like pinball -- were in the days of yore gambling-oriented. When you could bet on baseball in the stands, it was enormously popular. (Today's baseball popularity is a pale shadow, as evidenced by the relatively low stadium attendance.) And coin-operated games used to give a payout for high scores -- and their popul
      • by murdocj (543661) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @07:54PM (#6640773)
        When you could bet on baseball in the stands, it was enormously popular.

        I don't think that betting had anything to do with the popularity of baseball (unless you are Pete Rose). When I was a kid, going to a double-header with the family was a relatively cheap form of entertainment. You brought a bag of sandwiches, cokes, and peanuts, paid a buck or two per person, and had a nice afternoon.

        Now the games are ridiculously expensive and you have to shell out lots of $$$ to buy outrageously overpriced ballpark food. A generation of kids has grown up that probably never experience a ballgame, so they could care less which team wins.

    • Actually, "crouching away at their computer, beating wombat after wombat to get the extra gold and items" is the fun of this type of game. In Diablo II groups of people routinely get together and repeatedly go and kill certain boss monsters over and over and over again, either because those monsters drop the phat loot or are good for leveling your characters. They create a new game, go in, kill the baddies, collect the loot, then leave the game and start another. Typical cycle time is less than 5 minutes
  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:11PM (#6639349) Homepage Journal
    stops becomming a game, and become employment. And all that implies.

    You will also lose in revenue from people who want to play for fun. because they will never get an opportunity to get 'valauable items'

    what happens when you spen 20 hourse getting a real valuable item, then the company decided to put 1000 od them in the game the next day? How valauble is something that can be created infinite times?

    • according to some chick at the RIAA, [pixeltees.com] things like that are worth 150,000 dollars.
    • stops becomming a game, and become employment. And all that implies.

      What does it imply? That out of work techies can now scrape together a meager existance? I don't see a problem here.

      You will also lose in revenue from people who want to play for fun. because they will never get an opportunity to get 'valauable items'

      I don't see how. Anyone can still go out and get items, without involving anything real-world. Of course, more dedicated people who are willing to put more into a game can get bet
      • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Thursday August 07, 2003 @06:09PM (#6639961) Homepage Journal
        it implies taxes, tracking monetary exchanges accross borders, etc...

        it also implies an opportunity to make a buck. "and all that implies" doesn't mean it is wrong, only there is a lot more thing to take into consideration.

        well, guilds will rise up and block non guild members from entering certian areas, or 'hog' the special spawn. meaning I won't get an opportunity to get at it.

        finally,
        What about liability from the parent company. I spent 20 hours(200 hours it desn't mtter) to get the 'rare' item, then you just made them less rare. they would get sued.

        That doesn't go into support issues, game bugs, gamer abuses, and many otherthing that need to be taken into account when you involve money.
    • That's the point though. This article proposes linking the fake objects to real objects. Thus they cannot be created infinite times. The virtual gem/sword/horse in the game will just be a placeholder for a real gem/sword/horse that the players can "win" by playing the game.

      The problem [imo] becomes then that the company would have to charge high rates, or have crappy 'prizes' to make a profit. AND they'd have to have some mechanism to insure that the virtual objects aren't hacked or copied as it directly t
    • by gilroy (155262) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:29PM (#6639567) Homepage Journal
      Blockquoth the poster:

      How valauble is something that can be created infinite times?

      Exactly the question that has the RIAA and MPAA laying awake at nights....
    • Um, kinda like the way the treasury could print infinite dollars causing the value to drop dramatically? Sure the game creators would then have to look at inflation/supply/demand issues, but really its not difficult
  • by Christopher Thomas (11717) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:11PM (#6639353)
    A dupe bug would bring the economics of such a system crashing down.

    The advantage to a system where in-game objects don't have (recognized) real value is that bugs aren't lethal to the parent company, and the game can be revised and the game database directly edited with impunity.

    Make money in the game real, and suddenly the parent company has to be a lot more careful, and is a lot more liable if things go wrong (as actual damage has provably occurred to the players).
  • My wife... (Score:2, Funny)

    by hshana (657854)
    ...would never let me play this one. Then again, who needs a wife when your living digitally...
  • Security (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    One of the biggest reasons that SOE forbids these transfers is that they cannot take on the responsibilities of making the transactions secure. What about duping bugs? Or an 'accidental' deletion? Fraud? Fraud is a really major problem in SWG right now.

    It just isn't worth the headache for them. Maybe some other games can solve this.
    • Re: Security (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Black Parrot (19622)


      > One of the biggest reasons that SOE forbids these transfers is that they cannot take on the responsibilities of making the transactions secure. What about duping bugs? Or an 'accidental' deletion? Fraud? Fraud is a really major problem in SWG right now.

      Or a hackattack like the one reported here a few months ago, where barbarians crack the game, teleport everyone to a city at the bottom of the sea, bonk their sheep, and cash in their virtual savings accounts.

  • Project Entropia (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sepherus (620707) <sepherus1281NO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:12PM (#6639364)
    Project Entropia [project-entropia.com] already do this.
  • More than likely, Sony forbids it because they can't profit. So, why don't they try to profit on this by starting a new store - or something of the like - where users can buy and sell in-game items? Heck, with all the greed going on in this day and age, I'm surprised they didn't think of this.

    Or is there some other legal / "moral" (like corporations know what that is these days) problem with this concept?

  • by lobsterGun (415085) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:12PM (#6639368)
    As is people don't already have enough of an excuse to hack characters and grief other players anyway. Now they want to add additional incentives to do so.

    I don't think I'd want to play in a game world that activly encouraged that.

  • Yeah, I mean, its not like people have problems playing too much EQ to begin with. Imagine what suggesting that time spent in EQ == real life dollars is going to do to that. Evercrack seems like a better and better term to use .. all that was missing was the exchange of money between said market participants.
  • Already in design... (Score:5, Informative)

    by jbischof (139557) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:14PM (#6639382) Journal
    There is a game out there called Project Entropia [project-entropia.com] that is being designed to allow you to purchase online credits with real money. I believe they were initially planning a 10 to 1 ratio of online money to real money. Items in the game will all degrade over time, so eventually you will need to repair or get new items. This keeps a need for income around that can be made in the game or outside of the game.

    This is a great idea but it brings up a host of new problems. Who owns online items? What legal recourse is there if someone cheats? Who is liable for your money. etc.

    People spend so much time and effort on MMORPGs that they should allow people to actually make a little money.

    • People spend so much time and effort on MMORPGs that they should allow people to actually make a little money.

      Or perhaps they shouldn't spend so much time and effort on MMORPGs and spend more time and effort in real life?
  • by DogIsMyCoprocessor (642655) <dogismycoprocessor@ya h o o .com> on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:14PM (#6639385) Homepage
    I'm guessing that players would game the system by forming coalitions where, through some of the player's characters doing suboptimal actions (from the individuals POV), the coalition would make money. Could make a mockery of the game.
  • Liability (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Florian Weimer (88405) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:15PM (#6639393) Homepage
    I think the problem here is liability. If a software glitch caused objects to vanish, or improvements to the game shifted the balance and (inadvertedly) change the value of items, people would suddenly lose real money, and might sue.
    • Re:Liability (Score:4, Insightful)

      by urbazewski (554143) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:53PM (#6639798) Homepage Journal
      Ah, but the inhabitants of Yap have already figured this one out. Here's an anecdote that I picked up teaching macroeconomics:

      At one time the island of Yap in the S. Pacific used large stones wheels as currency. Mostly ownership of the stones changed hands while the stones stayed put. During one attempt to move a stone by boat a storm blew up and the stone sank to the bottom of the ocean.

      The Yap equivalent of the US Federal Reserve met and decided that because the money was lost accidentally, there was no reason that the person didn't still own it, and title to that stone continued to circulate as money. (Couldn't find a current reference, but the original story came with the instructor's notes to Mankiw's intermediate macroeconomic text.)

      So all they really need are virtual titles to the virtual objects that no longer exist...

  • by bytesmythe (58644) <bytesmythe@gm a i l . com> on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:16PM (#6639400)
    I wonder how well an MMPORG would work as a tax shelter? Instead of getting money in the real world, you just get it dumped straight into your "Everquest IV: The IRS Has No Power Here" account. And if people would claim loss of game currency on as an itemized deduction.

    Of course, sales taxes would be a pain in the ass. "Sorry, I'm not paying CA sales tax when I'm obviously performing this transaction in Midgaard." And if someone beats your character's sorry ass and takes your money, you'd have a hell of a time convincing the cops to track down one Umbrak the Barbarian, 8.7 feet tall, green skin, no hair, weight about 430 pounds, wielding a large spiked club and resistant to cold spells.

    This just doesn't sound like a good idea.
  • Not only are they going to be addicted to a new game, they'll bankrupt them too.

    • yes, why can't the go into a wholesome business, like owning a casino? ;)

    • > Not only are they going to be addicted to a new game, they'll bankrupt them too.

      It must be a pathetic lifestyle, being so addicted to a game that it cuts into your Slashdot time.

      Now I'm off to do something constructive - after I check to see whether any of today's stories have any new posts.

  • by duckpoopy (585203) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:16PM (#6639405) Journal
    for $2. Any takers?
  • Great concept (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tokerat (150341) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:16PM (#6639413) Journal

    Until someone "creates" items though some hack, just like every other MMORPG, and sells them off for real money.
  • by mnmn (145599) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:17PM (#6639421) Homepage
    I can see it now. 25 years into the future. The country is one big communist state. Everyone is poor and machines do all the work. But the state provides high speed internet connections and free Linux-based game machines. People spend 14 hours a day in a huge virtual world. The game is called Matrix. People dont care. Children are weaned on it. People meet each other on it. They practise their religion in the system. They form armies behind their ideologies and fight wars with various virtual technologies. Noone cares what happens outside. ...or do they!
  • by invid (163714)
    So what happens when I buy the Godly Vorpal Sword of Slaying for $1000 bucks and the creators of the game decide to nerf it to half its strength? Oh well, too bad for me. Wait, this could spawn the industry of nerf insurance!
  • by tinrobot (314936) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:17PM (#6639431)
    Let's see, you put in money, play a game, hope to get more money out than you put in... hmmm... sounds kind of familiar....

    It's called GAMBLING.

    I don't think it's a very good idea.
  • I can see why Sony wouldn't want to suddenly come under the jurisdiction of every government that wants to regulate gambling.

    -jcr
  • Sony would never flat-out authorize something like that. They can forbid it and then look the other way, of course, if it makes gamers happy and brings more players into the fold, but they would never want to make it an authorized practice for the simple reason that they would then have to assume legal responsibility for it.

    Everybody's already mentioned dupe bugs. And what about if a server's down? Are you costing a user potential earnings? Are you then responsible? And who dictates prices, and what a
  • An interesting idea would be something along the lines of a 'gold standard' for MMORPGs. Let's say ou pay $20*/month for the subscription, then the company says 'Any money you find in the game, we are willing you pay for.' IE you kill a monster and get $.10. You can then go to a merchant in the game and deposit $.10 into a real money account.

    The company would have to be very careful how much money spawns/player, but you could get some extremely interesting econmies out of this model if anyone chose to pers
  • Instead, you should have in-game items which are instantiations of real-life objects. Questing for the items (or just purchasing them, or whatever) lets you change them in and get the real items. It's a good way to distribute promotional items since people will actively work toward the items, thus letting you know who actually wants what.
  • liability issues (Score:3, Insightful)

    by frenetic3 (166950) <houston@nOspaM.alum.mit.edu> on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:21PM (#6639473) Homepage Journal
    man, this idea comes up over, and over, and over again..

    the problem is it's virtually impossible to design a hackproof system -- nearly all modern mmorpgs have had instances of bugs where people dupe items or otherwise illegally generate money. eventually word gets out about them because everyone wants that advantage, but it's really different when $ is involved; if someone on one of these games found an exploit like that then they could embezzle practically unlimited amounts of $. and even worse, if an exploit became widespread then the whole economy could be totally screwed up, and people would be losing *real money*.

    so the problem always ends up that no developer could reasonably shoulder that much liability -- it's bad enough with people bitching about losing imaginary items but if someone gets cleaned out of actual assets and $ then (ianal, but i believe) they can sue and the developer could actually be found liable.

    my 2c

    -fren
  • Project Entropia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Traa (158207) * on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:26PM (#6639522) Homepage Journal
    The idea of linking Real World(tm) money to MMORPG ingame money is exactly what Project Entropia [projectentropia.com] is all about. You start out with the bare minimum of clothes, tools and skills and are only able to upgrade and buy stuff with in game money, which you don't have yet. To get money in the game you have two options:
    1) Exchange real money for ingame money
    2) Make money in the game by performing services, selling items, doing stuff, trading, gambling...

    The most novel aspect of the game is that it allows you to exchange ingame money back into real money too.

    Some things to note about this game is that stuff deteriorates, so over time without updating your items they would lose their monetary value.

    What I liked about the idea is that for a certain amount of real money you can buy yourself the skills and tools to keep you busy for a certain amount of time. Then when you want to continue playing you have to either put in an enormous effort to make money in the game, or simply add some more real money. You are paying for playing. Not sure if it is very well balanced in Project Entropia, but the idea is interesting.
  • by discore (80674)
    This seems like an okay idea in theory, but I feel the sad reality of it is that the players will ruin everything.

    People in MMORPGs are greedy enough as-is with 100% fake items that have little to no real life value. This would only be 100 times worse if there was real money at stake.
  • Project Entropia [project-entropia.com] seems to do most of this already. I only played during the economic model beta - interesting concept. Free client, free to play if you want. You put real money in for game money, get real money out from the same game money. So, theoretically, if you spent enough time farming then you could make some money, though I doubt very much.

    Typically "start up" funds are about 10 bucks or so - at least when I played.
  • Imagine Massively Multiplayer Games where you can actually cash out your loot in the real world.

    God, people would never quit whining. Every bug or server rollback would be accompanied by loads and loads of people whining about losing money.

    At the same time, they'd need a new way of giving stuff out. If someone picked up more than thier fair share of the treasure drops, everyone would throw a big hissy fit. And every time a group achieved a goal, they couldn't give out a big bit of treasure; it'd have to
  • I perfected this online business plan back in the DOS days, when most games required you to make a stop at the "casino" to earn "money".


    LastCash = Cash
    Do While Cash < DesiredCash
    {
    Play_casino_game()
    If Cash > LastCash
    {
    SaveGame()
    LastCash = Cash
    }

    If Cash < FrustrationLevel
    {
    Reboot/Power off
    End
    }
    }


    Hey, it worked while playing Pokemon [gamers.com] on my Game Boy! I mean, my kids' Game Boy, yeah, that's the ticket...
  • by Dr. Transparent (77005) * on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:28PM (#6639554) Homepage Journal
    MMORPGS are about roleplaying. The idea of roleplaying is that your character can be anything, including anything you are not. Allowing people to buy/sell ingame items will inevitably result in the real-world wealthy (or heck, not even wealthy but just those with different monetary priorities) to acquire the best characters/items and thus the power.

    Now before I venture any further into the realm of dirty-hippie-liberal, let me say that I am completely behind the idea of economic discrimination (that is, allowing economics to determine the outcome of social order, etc.). But I relish the opportunity to have a "Fresh Start" in a game, not being hindered or helped by my real-world life.

    If the gamers want this, then I say let them have it (I'm sure the game COs can levy a nice 5% tax on sales and make a killing). But I would plead with the COs to create servers that disallow such activities so those of us who relish the escapism and real-world separation of the MMORPG can continue to carve out our own paths in game, regardless of any social positions we might have gotten ourselves into.

  • of the time that I showed everquest to a friend of mine who is not into playing video games. His first question was: 'If you do well at the game does your monthly fee go down?'

    I thought that was a brilliant idea. Sort of like pumping quarters into an arcade machine. every time you play, you pay. sounds like a great new addiction.

  • BUY a game, PAY a monthly fee to play it, just so you can PURCHASE upgraded items? Isn't there already enough money involved in MMORPGs? How about some STORY? How about some ACTION? How about some FUN?

    Remember when games used to be about good, old fashioned FUN?
  • because this opens them up to all sorts of liability issues. All sorts of things that are now just annoying to end-users might be actionable by them against the game hosts. The current level of security would never pass muster. Complaint resolution mechanisms would have to severely upgraded.

    Also, if a gang of virtual folk robbed you of virtual wealth, could you have them arrested in the real world?

  • DUMBEST. IDEA. EVER. (Score:5, Informative)

    by raehl (609729) * <raehl311@yFREEBSDahoo.com minus bsd> on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:29PM (#6639571) Homepage
    Anyone ever had the misfortune to actually run any sort of online gaming environment?

    Ever had to deal with the piles of complaints from 12 year olds upset that they lost something of no real-life value?

    And you want now give them things WITH real life value they can complain about losing?

    Gee, I wonder why the gaming companies aren't signing up for that.
  • Personally, I don't see any reason why you shouldn't be able to buy and sell virtual goods. It's not like this doesn't happen all the time in other areas; you're certainly not getting a real live performance when you download music from iTunes. What you are buying in both cases is entertainment, and though the electronic form blurs the distinction between goods and services, it's not really anything novel. (Not that it would surprise me if some USPTO drone sees matters otherwise.) There's even a fairly nift
  • I think the subject says it all but just in case: Sure some people are getting kicks out of the idea of getting money from playing a game, others are talking about technical issues (ie duping) and still others are asking legal questions. But what about game balance? It used to be the dangerous palyer was the one who was more obsessed with the game, who invested the most time into it, and casual gamers have had issues with those players since the days of the MUD. But now you make reall world money directly a
  • The True Cyberspace (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Obiwan Kenobi (32807) * <evan@[ ]terorange.com ['mis' in gap]> on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:34PM (#6639614) Homepage
    The theorem used here is trying to create an entire society, not just a profitable MMORPG.

    If you even begin to attempt to do something of this magnitude, the first lawsuit will be the end of it.

    Or the first death. Don't think someone won't track another user and kill his punk ass because he stole his deed to some ruby in Nebraska.

    Put simply, we don't have the computing capacity, or bandwidth, or security to support this system. These are the kinds of games that movies are based on, and parody. Someone could potentially spend years of their life in a game like this, doing whatever they please. Running a farm, running a shop, whatever.

    This is just not possible at the moment. The graphics aren't good enough, the bandwidth isn't there (think of a New York sized metropolitan area--and the massive lag associated with it).

    Of course it's a good idea. A virtual society with real money and real consequences, hell, before you know it you'll have mini-governments out there, plus the added intrigue of bounty hunters who go find the bastard that killed your cousin's character and stole all his loot.

    You'll vote on the president of a virtual world or continent or server or however you want to specify it. Of course, for this truly to work, it would be game-wide, and that kind of operation would require millions of people to use it to create a revenue stream good enough to make it viable.

    Yes, that gold site isn't a "currency" but you damn well better believe the first time a 10 year old earns $10k off of something there would be law quicker than you can say Cease and Decist.

    There are too many variables, too much shit that goes along with this kind of idea to make it never get beyond what it already is: a child's perfect dream world, with no corruption or inflation, with no abuse or discourse.

    Keep hope alive, but don't even imagine this coming into existence in the next 10 years.

    It reminds me of Molyneux's new game, The Movies. He pontificates on the viability of creating all of the "main parts" of your favorite movies with the game. Including Star Wars or Terminator or Fried Green Tomatoes. And you just know it's going to be a lame console game with a PC version that is probably above average. He dreams big, but he hasn't hit the mark in a long time. Black and White's UI-less UI was limp, but he tried.

    And its ideas like this that are required for a true cyberspace to come into being.

    Good luck.
  • money laundering (Score:2, Interesting)

    by danimrich (584138)
    I suppose that money laundering would be a huge problem. The company running the game would be required to log all transactions between players and to verify their identity. Plus, what happens when the database server with the financial information gets hacked?
  • by Filibustero (695542) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:36PM (#6639634)
    This does happen unofficially, but there are a lot of problems posed if a game wants to support this officially.

    1) Taxation on profits. If people were making a living in this virtual world, the tax collectors would want their take. Just like casinos, the game companies would end up with some responsibility for collecting witholding for states, federal, and maybe even foreign countries. And just like casinos, they would probably need to somehow allow players to track losses as well for tax purposes. This is complicated by the fact that most of what is going on can easily be disguised with "gifts", "barter" transactions, with cash being exchanged on the side.

    2) If a bug "poofs" a valuable item, and they support the idea that the item can have a real cash value, then they just became liable for the loss. Same with dupe bugs as has already been mentioned. The same idea would apply to "fraudulent" trades made by players, making the game company potentially liable for the players' loss.

    3) Suspending or banning a player could potentially lead to a lawsuit based on loss of income, and the game company might have to prove to a court that the suspension/banning was justified, almost like an employment related lawsuit.

    4) Can you say money laundering? Think a game company wants their name on that?

    5) Any change to the game that affected the economy (which would probably be most of them) could end up screwing certain players. If you thought of the items and virtual money as stocks and real cash, the game company basically has the power to screw prices however they want. If they're officially supporting these cash equivalents, they would most likely be accused of corruption on a daily basis.

    The list could go on, I think you get the idea. I'm sure companies will continue to try this idea, but as someone already mentioned, the other effect is that if a significant number of people are in it for the money, it will basically suck most of the fun out of the game for the people who are "just playing", and the whole model would likely collapse because no one would play so the economy would never get off the ground (basically you'd have a big lack of consumers).

    By *not* supporting it officially and at least discouraging the idea if not strictly policing it, I think it actually can "work" better, because the company shifts all the liability to the players, and minimizes the effect of it on the game so that players don't feel like they're surrounded by ripoff artists.

  • by Logic Bomb (122875) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:40PM (#6639677)
    As usual for a /. poster, IANAL, but I thought the US had laws stating the federal government is the sole issuer of legal tender within its borders. Naturally, people can barter whatever they want (which is really all currency is a proxy for), but whoever is running the exchange could run into some legal issues. For example, would the company running the MMORPG be considered a bank under US law and have to follow all the accompanying restrictions? Basically, by insisting that nothing in the game has any equivalent to real property, game operators avoid a massive list of potential legal issues. This proposal would seem to wade -- hell, belly-flop -- into those issues headfirst.
  • by ocie (6659) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:45PM (#6639722) Homepage
    it was a text-only mud my freshman year of college: ..
    you are in room with a dirt floor. you see:
    life

    > get life
    Connection closed by foreign host.
    %
  • by Henry Melton (696193) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @05:50PM (#6639772) Homepage
    Deja Vu. Back in the May 1985 issue of Dragon Magazine, I published a story Catacomb [io.com] where the main character was trying to raise cash by playing a mulit-user dungeon crawling game. I often wondered why on-line gambling went with casino games instead of following the D&D model.
  • by Sagarian (519668) <smillerNO@SPAMalum.mit.edu> on Thursday August 07, 2003 @06:33PM (#6640184)
    The reason the casino can entice people into playing an always losing game is that they offer games with slightly negative expectations (say 48c on the dollar returns), but huge variances/std. deviations

    in most mmorpgs, games do have some variance built in, but it's hardly as random as a casino. If you're level 8 and the wombat is level 9, you're going to win 90% of the time with small variance.

    In the economic model proposed here, the implication is that you would expend say 100 micrograms of gold worth of energy killing the wombat, in order to loot 99 from its corpse. If it always costs 100 ug to kill the wombat and you always get 99ug, that's not an interesting game, it's just "pay to play", and people already pay a monthly fee and probably aren't keen to pay more than current games' rates.

    One alternative would be to make the outcomes more variable, which is inconsistent with what most people consider "fun" (at equal levels say making killing the wombat a coin toss would result in very frustrated players -- especially if death has meaningful consequences).

    Another alternative would be to make the loot more variable (you expend 100ug of energy to kill a wombat that is worth 99ug with a stdev of say 20ug... a long term losing proposition but an interesting short run one). This would look so much like gambling that it would run off non-gamblers, and would do a poor job of competing against establishments that offer gamblers wagers that can be quickly resolved without all the distraction of wombats and +10 bandyclefs -- and they're called casinos.

    Perhaps there's a middle ground, but to me the answer is just to allow free exchange of the digital goods for real money, and have the game provider take a small transaction fee for in-game transfers. Their advantage over eBay would be convenience, the ability to provide a highly liquid market (they have all the information regarding what items are wanted/for sale) and they could bolster reliability by running the whole transaction atomically (transferring the money and promised items simultaneously).

    My analysis completely ignores the myriad possible technical glitches that would plague the proposed system (duping, hacking, whatever), and it also ignores the economic implications of them pegging their in-game currency to a real commodity (be it dollars, gold, or whatever). These companies should be running fun games, not central banks, and the author should study the history of fixed exchange rates and the gold standard to see how that can all go terribly wrong and bankrupt anyone underwriting an online game using the proposed mechanisms.
  • by Cordath (581672) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @06:54PM (#6640327)
    A reoccuring idea for MMORPG's is that a players online food consumption and physical activity should have an effect on their avatar's physical appearance. Even though this was not the case in Everquest, it used to be a joke that some people would go to great efforts to get exotic foods and healthy vegetables for their online personas while subsisting on ramen noodles and kraft dinner themselves!

    From the above article:

    "In fact, by selling in-game perishables such as food and water to the players, the monthly subscription fee can be eliminated."

    Just imagine what would happen if virtual food and real food came into direct resource competition!! I can just imagine a player carefully planning his avatar's dietary intake for optimum health using high quality virtual foods he was able to afford by eating only frozen bean burrito's himself!
  • by SeanAhern (25764) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @07:44PM (#6640702) Journal
    Wired magazine did a whole article about this a few months ago. But I don't recall what month. A google search turned up this article [wired.com], but it's not quite what I remember.

    The gist of it was, even though the Everquest license argreement prohibits selling virtual goods for real dollars, people do it anyway. And you can figure out what the exchange rates are. Turns out that the total "economy" of the Everquest world exceeds that of some third-world economies. You even get weird situations where people are clicking their people around very boring jobs, "because their clan needs the money."

    Where is the line between game and work?
  • by rodney dill (631059) on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:21AM (#6643792) Journal
    Once the monetary link is established then there can also be civil or legal actions taken for damage of "Personal" property. I can only imagine how long it will be until a lawsuit is introduced that someone through maliciousness or negligence destroys someones Property (i.e. character or a characters stuff)

I find you lack of faith in the forth dithturbing. - Darse ("Darth") Vader

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