One of the notable aspects about the boom in virtual worlds is the bustling trade in virtual goods that occurs outside of the game. For example, there's the sweatshops that farm items like gold and sell it to users often over sites like eBay. But considering how big that market might become (ne analyst thinks non-subscription revenue could hit $5 billion by 2011), some companies are getting antsy about losing their grip on in-game wares. Sony has been trying to prevent sites like eBay from housing auctions on items from its popular Everquest game. This comes after the company imposed restrictions on the trade of characters. In both cases, the company wants users to exchange items over its in-house exchange. This is really a long running gag with Sony as it has repeatedly hurt itself by being too closed. While we've said in the past that "Sony finally gets...", it's clear that the company still gets very little. The idea of a regulated, transparent and centralized exchange isn't a bad idea as it could reduce fraud and make transactions easier. But Sony's hopes of capturing a slice of this market will be futile if it thinks the right approach is to insulate itself from competitive pressures. Instead of wasting money by sending out cease & desists and hunting down rogue users, the company should make the case that its exchange is the best place to do in-game business.
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