Their shelves are stocked with items that a lot of people really want, even though they will never be able to touch them. Services are rendered by characters that were created on a computer. With the recent increase in popularity of online video games additional information and virtual worlds, there has been a whole new cottage industry created that sells virtual items and services to gamers who spend a lot of time and money in Cyberspace.
They are called Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games, or MMORPGs and they are a genre of online video games that over 15 million people worldwide are now playing. Participants pay a subscription fee and a one-time fee for game software and then they connect to a server and interact in a 3D landscape using the software. The players do not seem to have any ultimate goal of winning, but rather they are encouraged to just continue living inside the virtual world spending time and money there. Victory is not as important as developing your character into one that has fame, fortune or status. A lot of money can be spent on this pursuit with things like character enhancing item purchases and monthly subscription fees.
The cost of designing, developing and creating an IMMORPG is about 10 million dollars. It requires many people with many different skills in game design, 3D animation, computer engineering and database architecture to name a few. It may be costly to get an online game or virtual world up and going but the profit margin is extremely high and this helps to ensure that investors will make their money back with a great profit in relatively no time at all. In 2006 this particular genre of video games grossed over 1 billion dollars and it is only growing bigger every day.
In the world of interactive video games and virtual worlds it is not uncommon for a player to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on items that enhance their playing experience or build their status. A person can spend a lot of money buying such things as clothing, vehicles, weapons and real estate as well as a whole host of services and experiences. For example, a virtual apartment can cost anywhere from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars. Participants spend real money on these 3D items which are all considered to be real monetary assets.
A whole new economy has been created because of online video games like World of Warcraft, Everquest, and Second Life. With over 7 million subscribers World of Warcraft is the most popular of these games. It is a classic fantasy-themed battle game in the tradition of Dungeons and Dragons.