Dibbell on Chinese Gold Farms

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.

Previously: Play Money is Now Out and Professional Game Playing Conclusion.


Julian Dibbell’s Book Play Money is Now Out

Play Money: Or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot, the new book by Julian Dibbell is now available.

Julian’s goal was to earn more money selling imaginary goods (ie. online gaming goods) than from his “real job” as a professional writer. He came up short of his goal by only a few hundred dollars and, though I haven’t read it yet, I understand the book documents the entire endevour from day 1.

In addition to bookstores selling his book, Play Money will also be available in the virtual world of Second Life (in the currency of that world—Linden dollars).

From the press release:

In-game versions of Play Money designed by Second Life coder/publisher Falk Bergman are available for L$750. These copies can be signed by Dibbell at his in-Second Life interview with journalist Wagner James Au on July 27th. For the Second Life resident who needs something a bit more tactile, L$6250 buys a real-life copy of Play Money, shipped with care to the buyer’s real life address, in addition to the standard in-game version.

(At the time of this press release, Linden dollars are trading at approximately L$300.00 to the US$1.00. Adjusted to US dollars, an online copy costs US$2.50, and the price of a real-life copy bought in-game is around US$20.85.)

I’ve previously written about Julian’s professional game-playing.