Image: Entropia
Mindark Pe Ab
Entropia, an online role-playing game, can be a peaceful place. But it's also a place to make money, start banks and advertise on in-game billboards.
updated 1/10/2007 9:51:43 PM ET 2007-01-11T02:51:43

"Entropia Universe," an online role-playing game with a distinctly economic bent, will soon let players start up banks with the authority to lend money that's convertible to real-world dollars.

Entropia's parent company, Sweden-based MindArk PE AB, said it would auction five banking licenses, each valid for two years. The holders will be able to set up bank buildings on the science-fiction-themed planet of Calypso, charge interest on loans and advertise on in-game billboards.

Previous auctions by MindArk for virtual "real estate" have yielded bids of up to $100,000.

The Project Entropia Dollar is convertible to U.S. dollars at a fixed rate: 10 to 1. This makes it unique among virtual currencies, since most game companies shun links to the real-world economy.

MindArk, going the other way, last year made ATM cards available to players so they could withdraw game funds. However, its payment-processing company has run into difficulties, and it's no longer possible to transfer money to the card accounts from the game.

There was no word from MindArk on the legal implications of a game company giving out licenses for banking, which is highly regulated in most countries. A representative did not return an e-mail message Wednesday.

In another sign of the increasing economic sophistication of online games, players in "EVE Online," a science-fiction game published by an Icelandic company, in 2005 financed a virtual space station through an "initial public offering" of stock.

In November 2006, Ailin Graef claimed to own virtual property worth more than $1 million in "Second Life," a world whose currency is convertible to the dollar at a fluctuating rate.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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