Written in November, 2005, the Fortune magazine article From Megs to Riches features a few MMORPGs Entrepreneur success stories.
The article begins with the story of how Paul, a corporate litigator, gave up partnership at a law firm to find riches in the virtual world by trading virtual items and currencies for real money.
Paul is a clever guy who, like the old time stock operators, makes money by exploiting market inefficiencies. Paul would buy accounts from retired players and then strip away and sell their assets for a tidy profit.
Next, the article introduced us to Anshe Chung, who amassed a fortune of $50 million virtual dollars in the game Second Life. How much does that translate into real dollars? The answer is $250,000.
In 2006, Anshe Chung became the first person in history to amass a (real) fortune of over $1 million dollars from shrewd dealings in the virtual world. In 2008, Anshe Chung Studios, the company that was created and built by Chung in a virtual world, is worth several million dollars and employers 80 employees in a real office building.
Experts expect the value of virtual assets to exceed $9 billion dollars by 2009. At the rate demand for virtual assets is growing, who knows how much Anshe will have five years later. And who will be the first person to have amassed a fortune of over $1 billion dollars in the virtual world?
There are also a handful of companies that are profiting for the rise of virtual reality, companies such as LGE.com and PlayerAuction.com.
The practice of commercializing virtual assets is discouraged and even prohibited by some MMORPGS. Some common criticisms for such practice include:
- The ability to purchase your way to the top defeats the purpose of the game.
- It encourages sweatshops, or "gold farms", in under developed nations.
- Creating virtual assets creates no real value for the economy.
- Cheap labor floods games with money, causing inflation and disturbing the balance of the games.
Such criticisms should not be taken lightly: a class action lawsuit was filed against LGE.com by World of Warcraft fans.