In a study by Professor Edward Castronova from California State University at Fullerton, Norrath, the setting for the online Everquest, was found to be the 77th strongest economy in the world. Somewhere between Russia and Bulgaria, Norrath has evolved into a strong player in economy rankings. The ever growing online gaming community has embraced new games which feature improved graphics and increased numbers of players. In Korea alone, Lineage has attracted 2.5 million people.
U.S. research has shown that Norrath has a gross national product per capita of US$2,266, bigger than China and India. In order to join online worlds such as Everquest, Ultima or Lineage players usually have to pay US$10-15 per month, in return they get a fully immersive experience which demands great time and effort and can even produce profitable results. Once developed, various skills and even Avatars can be sold to other players. Instances of characters being sold at auction sites, like ebay, for hundreds of Dollars are not uncommon.
Such trading is against game rules but with the growing numbers of players it has become almost impossible to track every player. In many cases, for smaller transactions, players meet in-game after providing credit card details in order to obtain various skills or items.
In terms of the monetary input and the hours input the things that people are creating are very valuable. And that's how I got to this figure that the production of value per capita in these economies is somewhere between Bulgaria's and Russia's. Professor Castronova said.
If everquest has become that powerful it is only natural to expect future, more advanced, games to become even more influencial. Star Wars Galaxies is expected to debut with at least one million users when it launches later in 2002.