Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft is a hosted MORPG. Blizzard Entertainment is based out of Irvine California and is a division of Vivendi Entertainment Games. They previously had success with Diablo II: Lord of Destruction.
Diablo II was a huge success in Europe, Korea and North America. In fact, 30% of Diablo II sales came from Korea. In it's first month, Blizzard claims to have sold over a million units.
Using its on-line hosting experience, Blizzard released World of Warcraft as a pay for play game. Subscriptions cost between 12,99 and 15,99 USD a month, depending on the length of the subscription. Currently, there are over 800.000 registered users and 250.000 concurrent users spread across 95 servers.
There is a whole on-line gaming subculture. Nick Yee reports the average age of gamers as 26. There are a number of men that play women characters, and also in reverse. Other huge universe's include Sony's Everquest and Mythic Entertainment's Dark Age of Camelot. For more information, check out: MMORPG.com.
These games are taken rather seriously. Answers.com keyword: Real World Economies reports a cyber-brothel being operated by a 17-year old girl, where sim-money was paid for cybersex minutes.
In Everquest and Diablo characters and items are being auctioned on eBay. An Associate Professor at Indiana University, Edward Castronova calculates that over 1,500.000.000 USD of value will be created in the on-line gaming space from actual persons spending time to build on-line characters and then to sell the proceeds of their labor. In an abstract, an hour of labor works out to 3,42 USD/hour, which is equivalent to the per capita purchasing power of an individual in Bulgaria. In fact, a quick scan of eBay shows over 23.000 line items listed for sale.
South Koren police report three types of common crimes: hacking into accounts to steal weapons, stealing on-line identities so as to commit trades, and fraud connected with on-line sales/trading, reports Time Magazine
In an excerpt from the Time Magazine article, Michelle Levander writes:
Five rough-looking men stepped out of a black sedan and burst into the Seoul PC café where Paek Jung Yul hangs out with Strong People Blood Pledge, his clan of online gamers. 'Is the wizard here?' demanded one of the toughs, asking for the player who killed his character in an online game called Lineage.... The roughnecks dragged the 21-year-old into the urinal and pummeled him until he was covered with real-world bruises.