A study of the economy of the world’s most popular MMO, World of Warcraft, reveals income inequality in the virtual world.
I used to play wow. A lot. When college ended and it was time to move on to “real life”, I managed to sell my virtual character for real money, to the tune of $2,500. Which I promptly blew on buying even more electronic entertainment gadgets, turned out that “real life” still had some room for a bit of Xbox live.
Any serious WoW player will tell you that there is money in that game, viruses have been distributed over the web to steal accounts, there are dozens of MMO specific auction websites, and there are the Asian gold farmers. All these outside influences destabilize the virtual economy of the game, so much so that a recent study concluded that if Azeroth was a real country it would have the second worst economy on Earth in respect to income inequality. The 99% of elves, orks, gnomes, and so on are somehow getting more screwed than the 99% of real people, but at least Azeroth has better health care.
The study, conducted by Xsinthis, revealed some interesting things about the game’s economy.
- The bottom 75% owns 14.41% of the wealth (the bottom 25% and 50% owns 0.88% and 4.37% respectively)
- The first quartile was 12,000 gold while the third quartile was 108,198 gold, and as previously mentioned the median was 35,000 gold
- “The 99%” owns only 75.75% of the wealth, leaving 24.25% to the top 1% of players
- 19% of the subjects had under 10,000 gold
- 72% had under 100,000 gold
- 82% of players were under the reported sample average
- 96% were under 1 million gold
But a line from his conclusion brings it all back to reality.
“With such a large percentage of players below the mean wealth level, the whole ingame economic system is an extremely top-heavy one, leaving large sums of gold sitting idle in the top players pockets kept isolated from contributing to the economy, which is especially detrimental if one considers that a server economy is the simple flow of gold and materials.”
(Source: Kotaku, Xsinthis)