A report commissioned by the World Bank's infoDev unit has cast fresh light on one of the more fascinating aspects of our brave new interconnected world: the virtual economy. The "third-party gaming services industry" -- where wealthy but impatient players have someone else grind away at online games for them in exchange for monetary reward -- is one of the focal points of the study, chiefly owing to it having generated revenues in the region of $3 billion in 2009 and now serving as the primary source of income for an estimated 100,000 young folks, primarily in countries like China and Vietnam. What's encouraging about these findings is that most of the revenue from such transactions ends up in the country where the virtual value is produced, which contrasts starkly with some of the more traditional international markets, such as that for coffee beans, where the study estimates only $5.5 billion of the $70 billion annual market value ever makes it back to the producing country. The research also takes an intriguing look at the emerging phenomenon of microwork, which consists of having unskilled workers doing the web's version of menial work -- checking images, transcribing bits of text, bumping up Facebook Likes (naughty!), etc. -- and could also lead to more employment opportunities for people in poorer nations. To get better acquainted with the details, check the links below or click past the break.

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World Bank report finds selling virtual goods in games more profitable than 'real' economy