BEHIND THE FRONTLINES OF THE VIRTUAL ECONOMY MAVENS


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11.25.2008

Brandon Boyer

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Journalist Julian Dibbell, apart from being the author of the excellent My Tiny Life (which you may have noted is a permanent fixture on my bookshelf), is someone who has intimate knowledge of the virtual worlds real-money-trading underbelly, having spent a year doing it full time for his more recent book, Play Money.

So I’m happy to note that his latest feature for Wired has just arrived online, which chronicles the rise, and rise, and sudden fall of virtual economy entrepreneur Brock Pierce. Pierce was one of the co-founders of IGE, a company that rose from the murky grey market of trading virtual items and currency for real world money, to going properly legit with a massive investment from Goldman Sachs.

As Dibbell explains:

I was around when RMT as a profession was almost exclusively the province of small-timers like me and the very notion of a multinational, 500-employee virtual-items business doing over a quarter billion dollars in trades was practically unimaginable. And I was around three years later when rumors of a $60 million Goldman Sachs investment in IGE first broke and for a moment it seemed possible that Pierce had a handle on something deeper and more enduring than just a profitable business: the future maybe, not only of virtual retailing but of economic life in general.

And I am here today, admiring the views at Pierce’s LA home, because I figure it’s my best shot at an answer to the only question I can think of asking in the face of a story like IGE’s: How did it happen?

The Decline and Fall of an Ultra Rich Online Gaming Empire

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