It's no secret that MMOs have been embraced by researchers for a variety of purposes, with everything from social dynamics to the spread of diseases being modeled within the contained environment of a video game. A group of researchers over at Indiana University were attracted for just that reason, and began studying the ways that virtual economies mirror real-world economies on Everquest II. The full story can be found here, with some discussion regarding the relationship between the playerbase and the way it affects the real-world economic concerns of these games.
Certainly it's an interesting field of study, but it brings to mind one of the major ways in which an MMO economy doesn't have the ability to mirror a real-world economy: the fact that the stream of money going in to players is essentially unlimited, since there will always be roaming enemies to kill and ways to make money. It's also surprising that the study would be focused on EQII instead of the darling child of MMO economies, EVE, of which there could be and have been entire publications written solely about its economy. However, the interplay between the real economy and the virtual one isn't likely to go away, especially with the rise of free-to-play games in prominence.
[ via GamePolitics ]