Virtual Economies Beget Virtual Economists, No?


The Freakonomics blog pointed out a good follow up to my last post, noting that EVE Online has decided to hire a full-time economist to give reports, analyses, and opinions about the state of their virtual economy.

The newly hired economist will publish reports quarterly on various economic indicators, inflation and price trends among them. He’ll be doing this in addition to coordinating research with various academic institutions.

Truth be told, I like this idea. Virtual or not, the economies that emerge in these virtual worlds have surprisingly similar characteristics to the real world on a day to day basis. Granted, there are exogenous shocks that may shake the virtual markets that bear no resemblance to reality (such as changing the characteristics of certain professions and introducing new dungeons). However, I think the similarity is close enough on a micro level to merit study, even if the similarity doesn’t hold as well on a macro level.

Another interesting side note is that this economist may have influence on the future direction of the game. I wonder where his interest will lie in that regard, because in my opinion, making more money in an MMORPG does not necessarily equate to having more fun. I predict he may give suggestions that favor the stability and growth of the virtual economy at the expense of the enjoyment of the players. In any case, it will be interesting to see which direction his opinions lean as the game continues to evolve.

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