How the virtual economy augments the real economy

Original Article

Between December 2017 and January 2018, 34,356 parcels of land were sold in a solitary realty public auction in a single city to buyers from throughout the globe. The auction had a variety of features. Without a doubt, one of the most unusual things was the fact that the real estate being sold did not exist in any type of conventional sense.

It was virtual. These plots were being sold in a yet-to-be-created digital city available only via a web browser, enhanced by an advanced marketplace and an exclusive cryptocurrency.  Tens of millions of dollars have moved through the marketplace since the auction launch.

However, it is not unique. In 2010, a nightclub within the video game “Entropia Universe” was sold for $ 635,000. A digital equivalent of Amsterdam was marketed in “Second Life” for $ 50,000 in 2007. A 16-year-old simply won a $ 3 million cash prize for eliminating everyone on a virtual island in front of millions of individuals. In 2018, “CryptoKitties”, an Ethereum blockchain-based game that allows users to breed, trade, and sell digital cats, scored the then most expensive in-app purchase, with the sale of a CryptoKitty named Dragon for approximately $ 170,000.

This is the Virtual Economy. A heap of platforms, fledgling and often dubious markets, skilled mixers, unstable assets, and also ambitious pioneers that exist or operate uniquely in virtual environments. It rests just out of reach, behind a digital curtain, unnoticeable to most of us. Within it, there is a galaxy of activity as well as opportunity. A brand new economic frontier that might simply be the answer to the generational wealth void.

The pandemic is speeding up one of the most crucial trends of the internet: the creation and also the normalisation of virtual worlds and virtual economies. Today, virtual worlds mostly take the form of multiplayer online games: “Roblox” players average nearly three hours per day in-game; “Fortnite” has been collectively played for 10.4 million years – about 52x the time that humans have occupied the Earth. But virtual worlds are emerging in new forms, bleeding into parts of life from music to education to work. We’re slowly inching toward the “metaverse”– a term from the novel Snow Crash, that describes a collective virtual shared space. 

In the future, we’ll all invest hours daily as digital avatars, or as ourselves in immersive virtual reality worlds. Most notably, virtual worlds will level the playing field. We’re living through unprecedented income inequality, with worldwide wealth focused at the top. In the analog world, talent is similarly dispersed, but opportunity is not. In virtual worlds, everybody will have equal access to opportunity: all an individual needs is internet access. Virtual worlds and virtual economies will certainly break down conventional barriers to wealth creation and also wealth distribution.


In April, 46 million people watched Travis Scott’s “Astronomical” concert in Fortnite. Millions more watched across the Internet, and the YouTube video of the event has 112 million views. 

Hosting a concert in a virtual world gave Scott unlimited creative freedom. He arrived on a purple comet, grew to the size of a skyscraper, and went underwater. While not all take place in virtual worlds, virtual concerts are becoming popular, as the pandemic shuts down physical events and as online-first events become more creative and immersive. 


A generation ago, online dating was stigmatised – it was embarrassing to have to turn to the Internet for dating. Today, online dating is completely mainstream.

Socialising via virtual worlds is following a similar arc. Second Life, an online virtual world created by Linden Labs, became popular in the late 2000s, but was too early – it faded from popularity over the last 10 years. The concept of socialising with friends via digital avatars hadn’t been normalised. 

Nevertheless, countless individuals, particularly Gen Zers and also Millennials, socialise through Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft, as well as other massive multiplayer online games (MMOs). Virtual worlds are becoming part of life; couples even fall in love through an online video game and get married regularly.

Education and learning 

Online education and learning platforms are making education more easily accessible and more affordable, however video-based instruction is restricting. Virtual worlds lend themselves to even more immersive, interactive remote learning. 

Dr. Estelle Codier is a 65-year-old retired nurse. She uncovered Second Life back in the 2000s and saw an opportunity to teach real-world skills within the virtual world. Within Second Life, Dr. Codier led pupils on critical care rounds on virtual patients within a virtual hospital. She, later on, published teaching health care in virtual space.


The pandemic has triggered companies to search for brand new methods to connect as well as collaborate remotely, with virtual offices emerging as an alternative to Zoom.

Features of virtual offices vary from the standard meeting rooms to the specific. Employees gather together for work and socialising, recreating the feeling of being in the workplace together with each other. Virtual workplaces frequently make use of the spatial gaming framework, which enables you to only hear people when they’re nearby – people get quiet as you walk away,  mimicking a real-world office environment. 

These companies are a precursor to what’s to come. As groups become much more global and distributed, and as Zoom fatigue gets worse, companies will certainly turn to even more creative and expressive ways to interact virtually.

Monetising virtual economies

A lot of today’s consumer technology giants monetise via ads: Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snap, YouTube. Virtual worlds are the future generation of consumer tech, and they’ll monetise through virtual economies and marketplaces. MMOs currently generate income by doing this. A common insult on Fortnite is to call a person “Default”, which implies that the person is using free skins – clothing as well as weapons. The cool players, meanwhile, pay for special in-demand skins; purchasing skins is a means of getting status in the video game world.

MMOs make about 85% of their revenue from microtransactions. Fortnite, for instance, offered Travis Scott skins to line up with Scott’s “Astronomical”: Fortnite’s currency is called V-Bucks and can be bought using real-world money. For reference, the Travis Scott skin costs 1,500 V-Bucks, or about $ 15. The average paying Fortnite player invests about $ 20 a month on digital items. Roblox uses Robux as its in-game currency, while Minecraft has Minecraft Coins. 

This concept is currently moving past video games. Gucci just recently launched digital clothing, consisting of a $ 10,000 virtual outfit, and Instagram influencers are utilising digital clothing to their wardrobes when promoting brands. Blockchain technology will make it less complicated to map ownership of digital assets, especially rare or sought-after assets. For example, an avatar of Donald Trump in the video game Cryptocelebrities sold for $ 137,000, tracked by blockchain’s distributed ledger.  

At some point, there will certainly be full-fledged virtual economies within these worlds, for every little thing from clothing to automobiles to real estate. Any individual can be an entrepreneur, democratising accessibility to innovation and opportunity. The virtual hair salon or digital apparel retailer will be the new small business.

Blurring: real and virtual

Individuals have constantly escaped into other worlds for entertainment – motion pictures, TV shows, video games. Currently, people will enter virtual worlds for every part of life. You’ll go to a virtual concert in Wave. Your children will certainly learn through Inspirit. You’ll work in Spatial. These worlds will be sewn together by indexes like Discord or Bunch or Twitch. 

Virtual worlds may be the best competitive threat for companies as diverse as Facebook, Netflix, and Zoom. In the real world, a brand generation of business owners will make it possible for virtual worlds; within those virtual worlds, a longtail of entrepreneurs will power virtual economies. We’re still years far from the full-on Metaverse, however companies are beginning to lay the bricks towards an immersive, virtual future.

(The writer is the Director at Isobar. He’s the highest globally and locally awarded digital planner in Sri Lanka. During the past five years, he has bagged 80-plus global and local awards. His lecturing efforts have helped over 4,000 students and business owners embrace digital marketing)

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