Sunday, August 31, 2014

Real Money for Fake Items

So, I read an article recently about how a battle in Eve Online cost hundreds of thousands of real dollars.

The (rather snide) article pointed out that you can buy in-game currency for real money, meaning every ship in the game has a real cash value, with some ships costing upwards of $3000.

This immediately brings to mind the pale, friendless virgin pulling out his credit card and dropping the price of a decent used car on a 'fake spaceship'. What a loser, right?

Well, first of all, that's a bit misleading. Yes, technically, all the ships have a real cash value, but you can still get these ships by playing the game... and that $3000 spaceship was probably bought by hundreds of players, many of whom never actually spent any 'real' money on it.

But this isn't the point of this article.

My problem is that this sort of thing is always characterized by someone, who has no clue what they're talking about, as 'spending real money on things that aren't real'.

Here's my point:

Person A opens iTunes and spends $2 on a song they like.

Person B opens their favorite MMO and spends $2 on a magic sword.

Now, if I say that someone has spent some real world money on a digital entertainment product that doesn't actually exist in the real world...which person have I just described?

The answer, of course, is both.

That's the part everyone always seems to miss. That MMO is a game, an entertainment product, and people who spend money on them aren't buying a 'fake item that doesn't exist', they're buying entertainment. If someone wants to spend $15 on some 'virtual items' that are going to bring them a few hours of fun in a game they is that any different from buying a $15 movie online?

Both the movie and the 'virtual item' don't exist in the real world. They're both digital products that you can only see and interact with from the other side of a screen. However, they both provide enjoyment to the person who purchased them.

Basically, 99% of our entertainment products today only exist virtually. I have literally thousands of dollars worth of movies, games and music that only exist as 1's and 0's on my hard drive.

No comments: