Game worlds: Growth economy

The virtual economy is strengthening – for gamers, anyway. This is a business story, but of interest to us parents because it offers indicators of where the industry's going. Electronic Arts will soon be offering the next version of its popular Battlefield Heroes game for free, the New York Times reports. You heard right – it will be downloadable for free. EA will make its money on advertising and in-game sales of virtual gear – weapons, clothing, etc. This is not a big leap of faith, of course. EA tested the approach in South Korea, "the world’s most fervent gaming culture," according to the Times, which adds that "in 2006, the company introduced a free version of its FIFA soccer game there … [and] signed up more than 5 million Korean users," generating more than $1 million a month in virtual-objects sales. [See also "Virtual money, real income" and "Converting virtual cash to real."]

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