Everquest kingdom richer than Bulgaria.
March 30, 2002 8:06 PM   Subscribe

Everquest kingdom richer than Bulgaria. Norrath, the setting for the online game Everquest, has been found to be the 77th richest country in the world, sandwiched between Russia and Bulgaria. Research carried out in the United States shows that virtual internal markets, combined with illegal online trading on auction websites, mean that Norrath has a gross national product per capita of $2,266, bigger than China and India.
posted by ncurley (16 comments total)
Anyone else think this is dangerous? Especially with an economy that can be controlled by a corrupt Everquest programmer. I'm sure no one put anything like their life savings in this game, they only buy/sell what they can afford to lose, but still...

It being a rich nation isn't surprising. I don't know how they calculate those figures but just taking the demographics of the people who play it, probably the richest countries in the world, and even a narrower then that, people who can afford the computer setup, the game, the monthly bill and have enough spare time left over to play it -- you get a small section of some of the world's richest people. I'm not talking super-rich but probably people bringing in around 70k+ a year. If a whole real nation was made up of people taking in 70k+ a year it'd be pretty rich.
posted by geoff. at 8:31 PM on March 30, 2002

Oh, here's a table of the richest nations. I don't know how they figured the game numbers versus these numbers because the CIA World Factbook puts Norrath between the Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.
posted by geoff. at 8:36 PM on March 30, 2002

geoff.: I don't know how they calculate those figures

It's explained in the article; basically, since the fanatics of the game can devote so much time to it, they get surplus skills and attributes which they then trade in the real-world to others. The study was done by calculating the Ebay price of these skills and extrapolating the size of the economy- more accurately, the black market economy of such games.

This is a pretty flawed way to do this; saying that a small subset of the gaming community exchanges skills doesn't mean you can then calculate all the skills involved in the entire game world and put a price on them. After all, the price of the skills are exactly such because of their illegal scarcity; Bulgaria still has a far stronger or larger economy in reality. I mean, if one MeFi user sells a person their sub-100 user ID for $200, it doesn't mean MeFi instantly become a $3.8 million dollar economy (sorry, Matt).

Ibid: Anyone else think this is dangerous? Especially with an economy that can be controlled by a corrupt Everquest programmer.

It does raise the question of when these online games will become so big and so financially involved that they'll require an actual independent monitoring group- especially if the trading of skills is legitimized, or other financial transactions.

It also answers the 6-month-old question, "Why do they hate us?".
posted by hincandenza at 8:44 PM on March 30, 2002

Anyone else think this is dangerous? Especially with an economy that can be controlled by a corrupt Everquest programmer.

Just replace corrupt Everquest programmer with 'despot' or 'third world dictator' (see Kim Il Jong or Moammar Qaddafi, for example). It could be worse. I mean, this guy is just going to spend his money on Everquest add-ons, subscription fees, hardware upgrades, and porn. Not exactly as dangerous as someone spending money on a nuclear weapons program, or international terrorism. I would trust a billion dollars to an entertainment crazed American before I would trust it to a violent dictator. Of course, the Everquest programmer doesn't have to answer to the all powerful, super effective UN. /end sarcasm

Isn't Bill Gates richer than a lot of countries? I know that California, for example, is the 5th largest economy, in the world. I think the real question is, shouldn't these poor countries be slightly embarassed by this news?
posted by insomnyuk at 8:44 PM on March 30, 2002

The paper on the subject can be found here. (and here's the consequent /. discussion)
posted by mkn at 8:44 PM on March 30, 2002

This, or a very similar, made the rounds a couple of months ago. The key is here:

He said that people are putting hundreds of hours a year into these characters and you can tell how valuable that is in terms of money by looking at how much these characters sell on open markets such as auction sites like ebay where they can fetch hundreds of US Dollars.

In other words, they almost certainly worked by looking at what prices charecters fetch, and naively (which is a synonym for "linearly") extropolated along the number of characters in the game. If we're lucky, they accounted for the various values of the characters (anyone want to buy a level 2 char?), but since that would lower the price, they probably didn't.

Of course, if all the chars were on the market, the supply would rise, the demand would probably stay roughly constant, and therefore the value would drop through the floor. Real GDP's aren't that fragile.

So hold your amazement and awe; this is a pure puff piece. Makes me wonder if somebody should go back and review "Professor Edward Castronova"'s dissertation a bit more carefully....
posted by Jeremy Bowers at 8:45 PM on March 30, 2002

This story was also covered by CNET back in January.
posted by SenshiNeko at 9:19 PM on March 30, 2002

Woman, bring me my 12-sided economics dice!!
posted by crunchburger at 9:33 PM on March 30, 2002

Back before Verant clamped down and started suppressing eBay auctions of EQ items, people sold the EQ currency, the plat, or pp ('platinum' or 'platinum piece') on the open market. (This surely still goes on on private webboards, too many and too obscure for Verant to control.)

The plat had a better exchange rate with the US dollar than the Japanese yen.

I'd love to see a real economist try to analyze the EQ economy. During the period I played (for about a year after the release), there seemed to be a steady, mild, deflationary trend for large items, and a marked inflationary trend for minor items useful to high-level players. For example, Dwarven Work Boots went from around 1500 plat to 1200 in six months. Bone chips, OTOH, easily obtainable by low-level characters (requiring only the investment of time), but valuable to necromancers of all levels, went from nearly worthless, to as much as 1 plat per chip. I would guess high level items accumulate in the world (continuing to spawn, and rarely being destroyed), while total plat in circulation increases more slowly, producing deflation (goods > money). Bone chips and bat wings, OTOH, have fixed spawn rates, but are used up by necros and enchanters at a maximum rate fixed by their spawn rates.

I always felt the Norrathian economy would benefit from a regulated futures market. I'd short DWB's and Polished Granite Tomahawks, and go long bone chips!
posted by Slithy_Tove at 10:11 PM on March 30, 2002

Odd, very odd indeed. To think that virtual worlds may compete with real economies in the future is mind boggling.
posted by Aikido at 11:20 PM on March 30, 2002

These people really need to get lives....
posted by Jubey at 1:40 AM on March 31, 2002

that's alright. let them play EQ until the sun comes up.

more lonely girls for the rest of the word.

assuming EQ players even HAVE girlfriends. if they did, maybe they wouldn't be able to spend hundreds of hours on-line a year.
posted by jcterminal at 4:20 AM on March 31, 2002

I heard at PC Forum from JC Herz that the population of Everquest was larger than the population of Cincinatti
posted by mikojava at 7:21 AM on March 31, 2002

These people really need to get lives....

Funny, that's exactly what most of the world would say about YOU, Mr. Metafilter-Poster.
posted by rushmc at 8:00 AM on March 31, 2002

Hey, jc, Brenda and Shannon @work are leaving their husbands/boyfriends because of EQ... it's earned the nickname "divorcequest" around the office.
posted by SpecialK at 10:50 AM on March 31, 2002

The nickname I heard was "Evercrack".

I wonder how much child neglect can be traced to it, heh.
posted by beth at 1:26 PM on March 31, 2002

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