Entropia Exchange at ATMs *Update*

Seems like there’s a bit of a race on to integrate real life with game/virtual life. According to a new article over on C|Net, this is what the developers of Entropia Universe are doing. From the C|Net article by Seth Schiesel (Link):

The makers of “Entropia Universe” plan to introduce a real-world ATM card that will let players withdraw hard cash automatically converted from their virtual game treasury.

With around 250,000 players, “Entropia” is the leader of a small but growing group of online computer games with virtual economies explicitly based on real-world money, and today’s announcement is the most ambitious step yet to meld an in-game economy with the real global financial system.

The game’s maker, MindArk, based in Gothenburg, Sweden, estimates that “Entropia” players generated $165 million (or 1.65 billion PEDs) in total economic activity last year.

There’s definitely something surreal about the idea that players who chase alien animals around a virtual preserve collecting animal sweat could trade that unreal commodity for hard currency. It really points out the virtual nature of real world monetary systems (and makes me want to dig out my old copy of “Cryptonomicon“).

There’s more interesting bits in the article.

For instance Jon Jacobs, known online as Neverdie, a 39-year-old “Entropia” player in Miami Beach, last year sold almost everything he owned (real and virtual) to scratch together $100,000 (1 million PEDs) to buy a huge space station in the game. By selling apartments and storefronts to other players and by imposing taxes on players’ hunting and mining on his real estate, he is now making about $12,000 a month on his investment, he estimates. And his big nightclub is still under construction.

I’ve previously blogged about Jacobs (reLink) and was, for a time, following threads on his forum. This, however, is the first I’ve heard that his investment is really paying off. I bet that gets some attention.

To continue…

Welter said that MindArk software engineers had been working on the ATM project for years, and that they had finally developed a system secure enough to allow instant verification and cash authorization. He said his company was in contact with the Swedish government, and that systems were in place to prevent money laundering and other potential abuses.

Well, I certainly hope they have this system buttoned up tight. I was on the Second Life forums yesterday when someone pointed out how a resident (or two) had figured out how to beat the “sim” (short of simulator and effectively the resource power of a computer) auction system. Instead of kicking off bidding at US $1000, they were getting sims for US $1.00. Linden Lab put an immediate halt to it, but more than a few sim auctions using this exploit had closed and the virtual land put up for sale inside SL. I’ve not checked to see if Linden Lab has gone back and charged the minimum fee of $1000 to people’s credit cards (I’ll check later).

Finally, here’s the part I like best:

He said that MindArk had never been asked about the game by the Internal Revenue Service or U.S. law-enforcement agencies.

I think the clock the ticking on this one.

{Update: Excellent post on Terra Nova (Link) about this and other news coming out of Entropia Universe developer MindArk. I’ve not been especially gushing, but I do contribute by merely blogging about the MSM news. A heavier dose of skepticism certainly couldn’t hurt. Some things – like Jon Jacobs’ association with MinkArk – are still (as I’ve previously blogged) a question mark to me.}