Adam Smith’s Invisible Master Hand of the In-Game Market


Date Published: March 4, 2014


Eve Online is the younger technophile sibling of World of Warcraft. Both of them have gamers putting what is arguably too much of their time and money into a system, and both are compulsive enough to be important news when something in the game world becomes chaotic. Game-wise, it’s similar to running middle-management corporations, but in space. And recently, it was revealed that £181,000 was lost after a player missed a payment to protect an area of that virtual space. The battle that caused the loss of players’ in-game content involved 75 Titan ships and 40,000 gamers and was one of the most violent battles in the game’s 10 year history.

This is going to lead many people to ask how in-game content can be worth so much. But in a medium where a “Burning Flames Team Captain” hat in Valve’s Team Fortress 2 costs $4,407, it is not surprising. Part of the reason is that microtransactions in mobile games — paying a small amount of money for a bonus in the game — have also desensitised gamers to the concept of paying larger amounts of money for in-game items.


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