Julian Dibbell has an interesting article in the New York Times about China’s growth industry: gold farming.
Gold farming is the term used to describe playing Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMO’s) to collect gold and other valuables and then sell them for real world currency. Though it’s not a lot to any individual worker, the amount of cash involved may surprise you.
In 2001, Edward Castronova, an economist at the University of Indiana and at the time an EverQuest player, published a paper in which he documented the rate at which his fellow players accumulated virtual goods, then used the current R.M.T. prices of those goods to calculate the total annual wealth generated by all that in-game activity. The figure he arrived at, $135 million, was roughly 25 times the size of EverQuest’s R.M.T. market at the time. Updated and more broadly applied, Castronova’s results suggest an aggregate gross domestic product for today’s virtual economies of anywhere from $7 billion to $12 billion, a range that puts the economic output of the online gamer population in the company of Bolivia’s, Albania’s and Nepal’s.