Are secondary markets beneficial for a virtual world operator?
School of Business | Master's thesis
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AbstractSelling virtual goods for real money has become the dominant business model for virtual worlds in the past decade. As the amount of money involved in virtual goods sales increases, market performance questions gain relevance. In this thesis, we examine the effects of secondary markets on the profitability of a virtual world service provider operating under a virtual goods sales model. More specifically, we ask whether the service provider should tolerate secondary markets or seek to kill them off. The structure of this thesis is as follows: we first review how virtual worlds operate as businesses and provide an analysis of the market conditions faced by a virtual world operator to provide sufficient context for the reader. We then examine the inner workings of virtual economies and review structures commonly encountered within them. Next, we conduct a literature review on real world secondary market models and analyses. Finally, we evaluate the implications of real world secondary market results on secondary markets for virtual goods. In the final section, we present conclusions and possible avenues for further study. We find that recent durable goods research suggests that a profit-maximizing monopolist will not shut down secondary markets, but will choose to reduce durability of goods instead and that these results can apply to virtual worlds as well. However, we also show that the question of allowing or not allowing secondary markets cannot be answered based on profitability alone and that service providers have to also account for externalities brought on by secondary markets.
virtual economies, online games, economy design, free-to-play, F2P, virtual worlds, virtual goods, virtual goods sales, secondary markets, second hand markets, durable goods theory, used goods, used goods markets