Virtual economies in videogames used as case studies

Thu Oct 1, 2009 8:47am EDT
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By John Gaudiosi

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters Life!) - Virtual economies set up in videogames as players trade items are being used as case studies to track and model real-world economies.

As more people join massively multiplayer online (MMO) videogame worlds like Activision Blizzard's "World of Warcraft," NCsoft's "Aion" and Atari's"Champions Online," real money is being used to purchase virtual items through micro-transactions.

As a result, game worlds are creating virtual economies.

With the global recession impacting consumer spending -- and the sales of videogames -- a research group is using Sony Online Entertainment's "EverQuest II" as a case study to explore how virtual economies mirror real-world economies.

Researcher Edward Castronova, professor of telecommunications at Indiana University, said researchers can learn almost anything about human society in games as they really are human societies.

However unlike real society they can be observed and tweaked.

"We can do controlled experiments in virtual worlds, but we can't do that in reality," said Castronova.

"Controlled experimentation is the very best way to learn about cause and effect. We are on the verge of developing that capacity for human society as a whole."   Continued...