Art and Entertainment


Virtual and Real Worlds Merge as Online Game Establishes Bank

March 23, 2009 02:30 PM
by Rachel Balik
MindArk, the maker of the online virtual platform and video game Entropia Universe, has received a license from Sweden to become a bank.

Virtual World Offers Real Bank

Users can download the video game Entropia Universe for free on the Web and can play without paying the customary monthly subscription fee. However, Entropia Universe players need to buy weapons and other supplies for their avatars, and they need real money to do it. MindArk, the game’s manufacturer, has decided to streamline the process of converting real money into virtual currency; it has acquired a license from the Swedish government to establish a real bank within the game.

The new bank will be called Mind Bank AB and will also offer certain real-world services to its customers. The bank will insure each bank account up to $60,000 and regulators will have oversight of transactions. Entropia has more than 800,000 registered players; of these, 80,000-100,000 are frequent players. At the current exchange rate, one U.S. dollar is worth 10 PED (Project Entropia Dollars).

Background: Legal and monetary issues in video games

The lines between the virtual and the real world have blurred considerably over the years. While Mind Bank AB is the first actual bank to be associated with a video game, other legal and financial matters have straddled the two realms. For example, a Dutch teenager playing the game Habbo Hotel was arrested in 2007 after he stole virtual furniture from other players. The Wired blog Game Life says he used passwords from other players to steal their furniture, items purchased with real-world cash.

A woman in Japan was also arrested and sentenced after she killed the avatar of a man to whom she was virtually “married.” After he “divorced” her in Maple Story, an online game, she signed on to the game with his password and terminated his account. The man reported the incident to the police and the woman was charged “with illegal access onto a computer and manipulating electronic data,” the Associated Press reported.

A man named Kevin Alderman successfully developed virtual sex toys for the game Second Life; when someone copied his popular SexGen bed, he sued in a real-world court for copyright infringement and won the case.

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Related Topic: Strange stories from the gaming world

While Alderman considers online violations of his copyright a serious real-world matter, apparently the same cannot be said for his marriage vows. The Guardian reported that Alderman has admitted to having an involved “affair” on Second Life with a woman who was not his wife; neither he nor his real-world wife considers this adultery, although Alderman has spent hours online having virtual sex with his Second Life partner.

In 2007, DailyBits collected “6 Bizarre Online Gaming Incidents.” Stories include a girl who died of exhaustion after playing a game for three days straight and was then mourned in a virtual funeral, and the Belgium police setting up an online task force on the game Second Life after a virtual rape.

Reference: Entropia Universe and MindArk

According to MindArk’s official Web site, the company intends its Entropia Universe platform to take the “genre to the next level.” The site offers details about the “universe” it has created and has information about how transactions take place.

The game Entropia Universe can be downloaded and installed via its Web site.

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