Do you believe in parallel universes? Well you should. Only they aren’t where you may think they are. They are online and in the form of MMORPG or massively multiplayer online role playing games. And they may be the spring from which the future of online gambling flows.
One of the most recognizable MMORPGs is World of Warcraft, which drew a great deal of attention to itself for the industry of in-game “gold mining” that cropped up in order to rake in real world currency by reselling the WOW gold to other players. But this is pale in comparison to the sophisticated developments occurring economically on other games, specifically EVE, a galactic space MMORPG.
EVE Online is the first MMORPG to have such a robust virtual economy that the game’s publishers, CCP Gaming, needed to hire an economist to maintain it. Eyjólfur Guðmundsson had previously been the dean of the faculty of business and science at the University of Akureyri when he was hired by CCP in 2007. The game’s economy has its own virtual currency called ISK and players are able to purchase items “in-game”, albeit the game is prohibited to sell in-game items for real world money. The reason given by CCP for this, is that they do not want to have to subject EVE’s economy to real-world regulations. Currently, EVE’s banking system is as “free” as one could get with players being capable of mounting ponzi schemes and extortions and other nefarious pursuits.
By comparison, an in-game casino seems pretty tame. But with the news that the operators of the third party casino named, IwantISK, had been banned from EVE, CCP Gaming must not see in-game gambling as being so benign.
This controversy gained momentum when the operators of IwantISK began bankrolling a coalition of mercenaries to lead an attack on a mega powerful corporation called The Imperium. After CCP received complaints about the giant battle which had come to be known as “World War Bee”, they had begun to rack up trillions of ISK in damage and lost “in game” property. CCP mounted an investigation and determined that IwantISK was breaking the game’s terms by trading in-game goods for real-world money. The CCP then seized what the gaming blog Polygon estimated was approximately $620,000 in real-world money of in-game assets from the IwantISK.
As IwantISK was dismantled by CCP, the EVE community even began to re-label the massive virtual war as the “Casino War”. Members of the Imperium expressed dismay that the “Casino War” was as effective as it was being touted, saying they they had no idea how popular online gambling was within EVE and that IwantISK would be able to backroll such an offense.
This seems to hint toward a future in which the implementation of gambling within the MMORPG industry is somewhat inevitable. Despite the rushed way that CCP Gaming dismantled IwantISK, the observable success of the virtual online casino surely left an impression on CCP, and it has probably begun to percolate ideas of possibility for the company.
It would be hard to deny the financial opportunity MMORPG publishers would have at their disposal if they incorporated “in-game” casinos, which makes it even harder to deny the likelihood that most of the MMORPG publishers are strategizing ways to incorporate the revenue channel in the future, sooner or later.