Reuters has a report about research being done on the in-game economies of MMOs like EverQuest II
and World of Warcraft
to better understand much larger economic situations in the real world
. The games are used as case studies where researchers can do controlled experiments that they couldn't necessarily attempt if real money or goods were involved.
"After studying 314 million transactions within the fantasy world of Norrath in EverQuest II, including trading in-game goods like armor, shields, leather, herbs and food, the researchers were able to calculate the GDP of one of the game servers (the back-end computer that hosts thousands of players in one world). As more people opened accounts and flocked to Norrath, spending money on new items, researchers saw inflation spike more than 50 percent in five months. 'We have seen that kind of volatility during times of war and in developing nations in the real world,' said [Dmitri Williams, assistant professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication]. 'Our own economy has turned out to be less stable than we'd all assumed.'"