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Most Expensive MMO Items
MMO games are big business nowadays, and people spend millions of dollars every year playing them. The range of virtual worlds you can engage in has grown rapidly. There is a real choice for people about what kind of character they want to be, what kind of environment they want to play in and what kind of action they are looking for. While World of Warcraft is top of the pile when it comes to MMORPGs, there are also some extremely popular MMOs which focus on social interaction over gaming.
Titles like Second Life allow people to chat, perform, construct buildings and games, and charge others for entertainment. While selling objects for real world money is frowned upon in games like WoW, it is positively encouraged in MMOs like Entropia where the game economy has a real world value. In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the most expensive items ever sold in an MMO.
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Virtual World Trade
According to estimates from the European Network and Information Security Agency, who carried out a study on virtual worlds towards the end of 2008, the real money value of virtual world objects being traded each year is $2 billion. That figure is likely to be much higher in reality because much of the trade is carried out on the black market to circumvent game rules which generally prohibit such sales.
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Entropia Universe Club Neverdie
In the Guinness Book of World Records (2008), the title of “The Most Expensive Virtual Object" went to Club Neverdie which is an asteroid space resort in the Entropia Universe. The resort includes a nightclub, a sports stadium, a shopping mall, bio domes, a space dock and over 1000 apartment buildings. Jon Jacobs bought the asteroid for $100,000, mortgaging his house in order to fund the purchase and he made his money back within a year. The resort is now estimated to be worth $1 million and it generates a large monthly income for him. Jon also paid $10,000 for a rare green egg which is on display at his resort. The Entropia world has an economy which values 10 in-game dollars as 1 real U.S. dollar and people can deposit and withdraw money. The developers estimate the daily turnover on their world exceeds $1.25 million.
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World of Warcraft Character Sale
It is harder to track sales in games like World of Warcraft because the practice is against the game rules, and eBay has banned the sale of in-game characters and items. However, in 2007, a Rogue character with swords dropped by Illidan Stormrage and an almost complete set of Tier 6 armor was sold for 7,000 Euros which converts to around $9,000. Sadly, the guy who bought the account was banned shortly afterwards, and it seems highly unlikely that he was able to get his money back.
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Black Market Danger
Deals that go on off the books can often be risky as with the 2004 case of the Qiu Chengwei who loaned his sword in Legend of Mir 3 to another player who then sold it for around $1000. Furious at the sale, Qiu Chengwei then murdered the seller and ended up with a life sentence in prison. Luckily, incidents where MMOs lead to violence are relatively rare, but as values rise and the black market grows this may become more of a problem.
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Websites like ige.com allow you to buy in game currency for a variety of titles. For World of Warcraft, you’ll pay around $15 for 1000 gold while in Age of Conan you’ll pay $90 for 100 gold. Some items in WoW might sell for up to 20,000 gold which still only equates to around $300 in real money. The real big money transactions go on off the books.
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In Eve Online, some of the larger spaceships are assigned serious value. Something like a Tempest Tribal Issue may be valued at 112,500,000,000 ISK. Something like a Rifter is worth significantly less. While the selling of in-game money for real world currency is forbidden in the terms, in practice you can still do it. You can buy 500M ISK for under $20 so once again it doesn’t represent a huge real world cost. However, if you look at something like a Titan Class ship, which costs billions and takes months to build, the real world value is estimated at around $6,000.
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The really expensive sales seem to be occurring in the virtual world MMOs like Entropia and Second Life. Second Life features Linden Dollars which can be exchanged for the real thing, and the value is constantly fluctuating. People buy avatars, vehicles, furniture, and even homes and land. According to the developer’s own website, the most expensive sale in Second Life was the purchase of the region of Amsterdam for $50,000 U.S.
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It is possible that there are big money transactions going on that we know nothing about. If you were to purchase an item or account in a game with rules which expressly forbid the practice, then you would be stupid to advertise the fact that you have done so. It seems that virtual real estate is the most expensive thing being traded in virtual worlds and that makes perfect sense since the owners can earn from their purchase. As these economies continue to grow, it seems inevitable that regulation and policing will become a necessity and there are already fears about the potential for using virtual worlds to launder money.