Sony is about to open Station Exchange, a shop for virtual goods in Everquest, one of its most popular online computer games. The idea behind the website is that users will have a sanctioned site where users can exchange their game goods. For example, if you buy a level 50 character, or a Flaming Sword of Justice™, then you can do it with the certainty that you will indeed receive the items and will not be subject to a scam, which apparently happens in “unsanctioned” auction sites. Online auction sites are filled with the sale of virtual items that are only available to players that have put a lot of time and effort in obtaining them. These cost money, and there is a real-life economy of virtual goods and characters. The real reason for this new site is that Sony has realised that there is money to be made here, and they want a piece of the action.
There is little doubt that the virtual economy is growing. According to Terra Nova, the virtual economy is worth between $4 billion and $7 billion USD, equivalent to the economy of Namibia or Jamaica, depending on which figure you take. I must admit that I am extremely skeptical about these figures, so I will reserve my comments until there is a more thorough study conducted. Regardless of my doubts, the value of the virtual economy is significant.