A surprisingly informed, evenhanded look at virtual arbitrage from the PBS columnist.

The specific event that led to this column was the failed sale of $2,300 in platinum by a group of EverQuest fanatics who wanted to use the money to pay their way to a big EverQuest convention. It is their contention (not mine, I’m just the reporter here, remember) that the bad guy in this deal is either Jonathan Yantis or an associate of his. Jonathan Yantis runs Yantis Enterprises, which was until recently the big competitor to IGE for the buying and selling of this stuff that isn’t real. Yantis is in San Diego, IGE is in Florida, and earlier this year they merged with IGE buying Yantis, though the web sites (they are both in this week’s links) remain separate.

The players who came to me sold their platinum through a game-specific auction site. The deal went forward exactly as described above, and they suddenly had no platinum and no money. Wily hackers that they are, they tracked the mail records of the only trail that did exist, the e-mails arranging the exchange, and claim to have found that the buyer’s IP address was from the same range used by Yantis Enterprises. Further, they explored the qualifications of the “PayPal Verified” buyer and claim that most of the positive feedback came from Jonathan Yantis. Finally, they claim that the day after the transaction, the Yantis price to sell platinum on their EverQuest server suddenly dropped as though there was suddenly a larger supply acquired at little or no cost.

These players are fervent and angry and they have some real data so what happens now? Not much, and that is probably the real topic of this column.