News & Views - Savantor

Virtually Reality

Tuesday, 01 August 2006

If you thought managing your money was a good exercise in reality then think again.  The company behind online science fiction game Entropia Universe - a role-playing game that has a real world cash economy - is introducing a new pre-paid card that allows gamers to deposit money into virtual accounts without having to use a personal debit or credit card.

MindArk, the Sweden-based company that developed Entropia, has launched a new monetary deposit platform designed by Paysafecard, Europe's first pre-paid card for online payments, which is supported by IBM, Commerzbank and Austria's Bawag.  The company says the new payments system creates a safe, convenient and seamless process for anonymously transferring cash to one's character in the game.

The process begins with the purchase of a pre-paid card - available in increments of EUR10, EUR25, EUR50, EUR100) - which will be available at a number of general retail outlets in Europe. The card contains a scratch and reveal PIN code which is then entered into the Entropia deposit system for transfer of funds without the use of a debit or credit card.

The online Entropia Universe supports sales of virtual products with actual cash value within a real economy system that enables players to make purchases, sales and exchange real-life currency into PED (Project Entropia dollars) and back again into real money, at a fixed exchange rate to the US dollar.

Gamers are also able to use a cash card at cash machines around the world to convert virtual dollars into real currency. It allows people to access their virtually acquired PEDs and convert them into real world money at any cash machine in the world. The card, issued by MindArk, is associated with the players Entropia Universe account and has all of the features of a real world bank account. Players can transfer, withdraw, deposit and even view account balances using the system.

Gamers can earn cash by accumulating PEDs via the acquisition of goods, buildings and land. Last year $165m passed through the game and the founders of the online Universe expect that to at least double in 2006.

Such cards blur the boundary between the virtual and physical world and are clearly gaining popularity amongst this generation of game players.  If this is a sign of things to come then maybe it adds a whole new dimension – literally and metaphorically – to card issuers marketing techniques.

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