Entropia Universe to use Real ATM Cards
The Entropia Universe bills itself as “the first virtual universe – with a real cash economy” (the Second Life operators may dispute this claim). It’s operator/developer, Mindark PE plans to introduce a real-world ATM card that will let players withdraw hard cash automatically converted from their virtual game treasury. Entropia runs on its own currency, Project Entropia Dollars (PED), that is explicitly backed by real-world dollars at a conversion rate of one U.S. dollars equals 10 PED.
Dale’s Comment: Video game universes are increasingly overlapping with the real world. The Entropia Universe’s use of a convertible currency raises obvious currency exchange, tax law and money laundering issues/concerns. What will happen to users’ accumulated currency when/if the Entropia Universe ceases to exist, or its Swedish operator, MindArk, ceases to exist or goes bankrupt? Will users have claims as creditors against MindArk?
The wildly popular Second Life MMORPG also allows users to use real currency to purchase virtual property. Second Life actually publishes how much real-world money is spent in the game each month. U.S. currency is converted to the in-game $Lindex currency and, through the games ‘Marketplace’ users can convert $Lindex back to real currency. As will be the case in the Entropia Universe, this “virtual” property has real-world value that, if stolen etc., may (should?) give rise to enforceable property rights in the real world.
See a related story posed on April 3, 2006, where a Chinese man was convicted of stealing virtual property and sentenced to a fine of 5,000 yuan (US$617). I suspect it will not be long before this type of case makes its way into Western courts.