Real-life currency in video games
The development of video games
Video games don't deserve to be underestimated anymore - they are no longer the sole domains of children and teenagers. It is now the largest entertainment industry in the world. It is yet still growing at a massive rate, and has been regarded by many to have survived the economic downturn, because of its fantastic growth.
The video game industry has also begun entering some very interesting avenues. Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs) have grown to the extent that games such as World of Warcraft now have over 10 million subscribers.
There are now MMOs that have gone to the step of recreating economies that are so real they use real currency. This means that you can buy and sell and exchange your hard earned dollars, pounds, euros, yen whatever, into the games currency. You can then buy and sell things in the game that have no real tangible value except people want them because they like the game. You can make a profit, and then quit and exchange your game's currency back into real money.
Second Life is one of the biggest MMOs in the business right now, and that is partly because you can use real money in the game. Entire cities and towns have been created inside the game using real money, and a lot of what you see around you has been paid for.
There is real money to be made from such wacky ventures. In 2006 (five years ago), Second Life gave us the first person to make a million dollars from buying and selling virtual property in Second Life.
Real life coorporations have entered the foray. Companies such as Dell have built virtual stores that you can visit, and enquire about their real-life products. It is a game, a money maker, an advertising and marketing tool all-in-one.
Second Life is however not the only MMO to exist that encourages players to make money whilst playing. Entropia Universe is another famed example. With an exchange rate permanently set at a stable and highly attractive 10 PED to 1 USD, it is clear that developers want people to "invest" in their game (if indeed such a concept exists).
Many have even argued that Entropia Universe is essentially a better version of Second Life/ It is certainly cleaner around the edges, the game world isn't as disjointed, it feels more real and a nicer place to be in.
Concerns and the future
Yet there are concerns that these MMOs such as Entropia Universe are actually in decline. Statistics would appear to show that members are logging into Second Life less frequently than they have before. This has however been challenged by many players, who claim that the statistics are due to poor decisions by Linden Labs:
"Whatever is happening to SL in this obvious decline, it is not the fault of the marketplace. "
However, many people have also claimed that it is not all doom and gloom. The economy of games like Second Life and Entropia Universe was not affected by the real-world downturn, despite its utilization of real-world currency. Instead, it has been affected by what players of the game see as poor decisions on the developers part. If this is the case, then it suggests that real-life currency in video games still has a future.