Gaming boom fuelling $3 billion global virtual economy: Report

A World Bank report has shed new light on the world’s multibillion dollar virtual economy, which is being driven by a new breed of entrepreneur that makes a living playing video games.


According to the report, the virtual economy is worth more than $3 billion globally, with a new type of tech entrepreneur continuing to invest in it by way of video games.


One example is Australian online entrepreneur David Storey, who has made a name for himself by investing in virtual real estate.


In 2004, he purchased a virtual island in online video game Entropia Universe for US$26,500. At the time, it was the most expensive piece of virtual real estate to have been sold.


The island only exists in the online game. But every time a player visits, shoots a fowl and takes its belongings, Storey gets a cut, which can ultimately be converted to US dollars.


“It opens up a lot of different opportunities to learn about different aspects of business operation and to really give you a flexible lifestyle,” Storey says.


Storey says when he first went to investors to tell them his idea of buying virtual real estate, they were initially sceptical.


“It took a few sessions but they understood the economic side of things… Most of the world says, ‘When are you getting a job?’ And I’m like, ‘I’ve got a job. This is my job’,” he says.


According to the report, manipulating social media has also emerged as a phenomenon in the virtual economy.


“The industry has emerged that manufactures likes and followers and other social media works by recruiting users in low-income countries and paying them to like a specific brand,” report author Dr Vili Lehdonvirta said.


The report comes on the back of an announcement by Brisbane-based game developer Halfbrick, which has acquired Spanish company Onan Games.


Halfbrick is best known for its popular Fruit Ninja game, while Onan Games are the developers of the Mandreel technology for porting games across platforms from a single C++ code base.


The acquisition will enable Halfbrick to efficiently deliver its games to iOS, Android and Facebook, while making other studios pay it to do the same.


According to Halfbrick chief executive Shainiel Deo, Onan has created “something that is incredibly powerful in such a fast-paced industry”.


“It’s our goal to maximise reach and bring our games to new fans, and we welcome Onan into the Halfbrick family knowing that they will help us achieve exactly that,” he says.


Onan Games chief executive Miguel Pastor said in a statement Halfbrick is “undoubtedly” one of the top studios in the world.


“We can’t wait to see what awesome new ideas and projects will arise in the coming months,” he said.


In December last year, Halfbrick received $3 million in government funding for a new Sydney studio.


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