Virtual World, Real ATMs

Posted by: Rob Hof on May 02, 2006

The one thing about my recent story, “Virtual World, Real Money,” that still mystifies a lot of people is the idea that virtual money inside an online game can be converted into real cash and vice-versa. But that reality isn’t unique to the virtual world I mainly profiled, Second Life. Entropia Universe, known until recently as Project Entropia, has encouraged sales of virtual products with real-money value.
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Today, Entropia Universe, the creation of MindArk in Sweden, is taking the idea a big step further. It’s debuting real-world ATM cards with which players can convert Project Entropia Dollars into real money and back using Versatel ATM machines. So players will be able, for instance, to sell a virtual item such as a chair or a weapon, then withdraw those proceeds from a Versatel ATM machine, in the form of real money, that same night to buy dinner. A real dinner.

All the more, it exposes the fact that the value of money—virtual or real—is no more, and no less, than what people agree it is. These days, I don’t look at those crumpled dollar bills in my wallet quite the same anymore.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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