November 25, 2008

Virtual Property and Capital

For some this might come as old news, for others this might be as intriguing as it is for me. As Venturebeat reported twice there are some serious working attempts att selling entirely virtual products. This idea of selling virtual swords, and one mans convincing presentation, always has a special meaning to me as it was what actually opened up my eyes to the knowledge economy. Below, I'll try to highlight, on a conceptual level, why I think this is so extraordinary

Ownership - what is owned and who owns it?
The first thing that comes to mind is whether something generated in a proprietary game becomes property of the player or the game (i.e. game developer). I have not dwelwed into this subject so I am not to decide, however instinctively I could argue for both. There is some legislation in the field
however that is related to SecondLife which is much more elaborate than e.g. WOW. Linden Lab who dictate SecondLife (and have every right to) could potentially create any kind of property law they want which users must adhere do once accepting the license (to my knowledge this has not been developed to such extent by Blizzard and others). But what happens when marketplaces are set up IRL, that are under conventional law (e.g. not giving players rights to their created characters) , we could end up with a lot of "dead capital" to cite DeSoto.
I must finish my thoughts on ownership by directing you all to a very interesting and award winning thesis, discussing in depth what I just touched upon.

The transaction - money in the bank or the beginning of a fall

As with ownership the object that is transacted upon might be hard for some people to comprehend, i.e. how people can pay for a digital sword. In my mind it is not anything different than a branded shirt or mobile ringtones. People spend money on things that delivers much connotations and a feeling of belonging / showing off / standing out. Being an ecnomist I love the fact of a new and evolving marketplace and an increase in liquidy caused by purely virtual products. I think the concept of being an intermediary and taking on some (in my oppinion modest) risk and taking a cut from each transaction - simple and effective way of generating win-win and revenue.
But there is also a part of me who can be sceptical and take the view of hardcore gamers who live for the game and would likely be slightly pissed of if lazy fair-weather players could buy level 11 characters - and in an instance we would have money killing all those long nights of creating an "invincible" palladin.
And should the hard-core gamers "die" (i.e. their characters) they would have "no" switching costs and would perhaps wonder off to other games more in their infancy and without established exchanges.

Marcus Malek

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