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PLAY MAFIAS

Somewhat linked to the previous story, Julian Dibbell filed his taxes yesterday; if his e-business continues to run as it did last month, he would have a yearly income of $47,000, which is almost enough to live off of in Northern Virginia. What’s newsworthy is his new profession – Ultima Online gold/items dealer.

The Guardian and Slashdot both noted this event, and of course our friends at Terra Nova have been following it breathlessly. One thing that few of them (except the Guardian, in passing) touch on is that Ultima Online is somewhat unique – they actually like it when people resell in-game items. Which is somewhat understandable, considering the free publicity they recieved a few years ago when this phenomenon first became noticed.

But the flip side is visible to anyone who plays games plagued by eBay arbitrages – that of in-game economies being diluted by out-of-game speculation. The fact that I actually work on an online game means that my specific comments on this phenomenon have to be of necessity circumspect — it’s not quite kosher to point out flaws in the economies of one’s competitors, and even less kosher to point out flaws in the economies of one’s co-workers.

However, I can point to something else – a Corpnews comment thread in which Themis declared that their association with IGE (the leading eBay online-gaming arbitrage merchant) was dissolved amidst a somewhat public debate/slapfight between Themis principals and an anonymous poster (presumably associated with IGE).

Apparently, play money isn’t as shiny as we thought.