MMORPG and the Problem of Ownership

Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game

MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) has been introduced to the gaming world with Kingdom of the Winds, Lineage and Ultima Online, and is now one of the most mass-appealing online game genres.

Many users have begun to earn and trade valuable items through mutual competition and/or cooperation in the gaming world and in the process the concept of user society and economy, and furthermore the concept of politics, have emerged in games. Consequently, MMORPG has naturally positioned itself as the platform that provides an user-experience closest to virtual reality, and proposes a prototypical image of a metaverse that is currently cited. Users engage in friendships and even marriages, and exchange and trade acquired game assets, portraying a massive market economy within the gaming world. In addition, interoperability, one of the key elements of metaverse, and furthermore the mutual compatibility of virtual economy and in-real-life economy have already existed in MMORPGs. Users have been trading their items and even their player characters in different price points and in the process the exchange between game assets and in-real-life currencies have been tacitly yet generally existed. The notion of real-estate trade, recently offered in various services such as “The Sandbox” and “Decentraland” had already existed in some games (especially ArcheAge) and with limited supply of land, they are of substantial value.

However, there has been an interpretational vagueness in regards to who actually owns such assets, which led to disputes between the game service providers and users as well as between the users. We would like to tackle this issue so that we can bring about a change in trend.

Original Form of P2E (Play to Earn)

Elements of recently-emerged P2E games have existed from the beginning.

One of the key attributes of MMORPG is the user’s desire to progress faster than the others and possess a stronger character. The user can showcase her/his character to the others, hold power, and furthermore gain economic benefit. To do so requires an abundant amount of time and effort, thus there has always been demand to acquire various materials and items with in-real-life money. To meet this demand, ever since the beginning of the MMORPG genre, there have been the so-called “gold farmers” as well as users who automatically run their characters with bot programs. Trades between such users naturally emerged, however, these trades generally took place in item-trading sites or black markets. This leads to the problem of ownership of assets.

The Problem of Ownership of Virtual Assets

Ever since the birth of MMORPGs, to date, there have been conflicts between users and game companies regarding ownership of in-game assets such as characters and items or in-game currencies. MMORPG service providers did not accept the ownership by the users and through EULA(End User License Agreement), etc. made sure that ownership of items and characters are retained by the companies, with users merely granted the license to use such assets.

But users have instinctively considered the in-game assets as their own property. This is because the value of in-game assets is generated and increased by the efforts put in by the users who play with the assets. Game companies have connived trades between users to the extent that the trades do not intrude the interest of the companies and the users have been trading virtual assets by employing expedients. (e.g. tradling the game accounts as whole)

Since the trades between users take place in black markets, the credibility of trades is not high and disputes or conflicts among users arise from time to time. As a result, an eccentric situation occurs where users wish to trade safely yet game companies disallow such secure trades and at the same time connive at black markets.

In the era of Web 3.0, the advance of blockchain technologies makes it possible for each user to own virtual assets such as in-game items. NFT is a primary example. Now, users are able to trade safely and get compensated for all the time and effort they poured into the game.

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