Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Death and Passing on your Virtual Assets

I don't really have that much experienced with real money transfers except in the form of spam advertisements. I know there's a pretty big market out there for selling gold to players and that this drives the theft and hacking of accounts. It's not all illegal though since I know some players routinely sell off their characters and virtual savings whenever they get tired of a game. While almost every game out there has a EULA that supposedly prevents players from cashing out, it's usually ignored. Theoretically, anyone whose played an online game for a couple months and earned some virtual cash could probably get a couple hundred dollars for their account. Some dedicated individuals who've raided or traded their way into a virtual fortune might be able to squeeze a couple thousand dollars from an auction site.

It's no wonder then that online services that protect virtual assets are also starting to mention game accounts. Usually, services like Asset Lock or Legacy Locker are for people that have a lot of money tied up in online sites like ebay or paypal. If you suddenly die then it can be quite hard for your immediate family to get access to any of your accounts. You could just write your account information down on a piece of paper and put it in a safety deposit box, but most of these services are cheaper. It's almost like a digital will without the lawyers. It's still not the most useful thing in the world and it seems kind of gimmicky at the moment. However, I'll admit that over the last ten years I've gone from maybe one or two online accounts to around twenty. Some of these accounts are just things like email, but a surprising number of them do have monetary value.

Like this CNN article says, we are spending more of our lives online and people are actually starting worry about this kind of stuff. This seems like an obvious sign that society is starting to associate more value to virtual property as they spend more time online. It's not actually that unbelievable. After all, the value of real world currencies have nothing to do with the ink and paper they are printed on. Virtual items tied up in accounts are the same way. They're worth what people will pay for them and in some instances that can be a lot. And since established institutions like banks are mostly absent in this market we are seeing companies pop up in their stead. It may be a little early for these companies to make a lot of money now, but in ten years who knows? I'm just thinking how much fun it will be ten years from now to track down this post and comment on how my bank finally started a similar service.