Online "banker" runs off with cash, avatars cry foul
8/28/2006 1:57:15 PM, by Peter Pollack
It might have been a scene out of some movie about the Great Depression. Hundreds of frantic people tearing their hair out as they mob the doors to a bank, only to realize that the bank's owners, along with their money, had vanished into thin air.
This scene, however, took place not in some seemingly distant historical period, but much closer to home (for some of us). The location was EVE Online—a science-fiction-based MMORPG, and the bank was the Eve Intergalactic Bank—a privately run in-game institution that for several months convinced EVE Online players to deposit their spare "money" into accounts with the enticement of accruing several points of interest per month. That seemingly virtuous idea came to a crashing halt when the proprietor of the EIB, known to the game universe as "Cally," absconded with around 790 billion simoleons ISK—the currency of the EVE Online world.
EIB was supposed to function much as a real bank would, turning its assets into investment capital, then using the returns to pay interest to bank clients and provide a tidy profit to the bank itself. Instead, it functioned more like a 1980s-era savings and loan, with no FSLIC to protect the clients. In short, Cally got away scot-free, even leaving behind a (rather boring) 10 minute video (download) to taunt those whose "fortunes" were lost.
The collapse of EIB has spawned a bit of an uproar in the MMORPG community, and there has been some musing on how real-world laws might be applied in the future to bring such "criminals" to justice (we're talking about the actual human players here, not the in-game avatars).
Unfortunately, as spectacularly disappointing Cally's crime may be to some of those living in the EVE Online universe, it is unlikely that the FTC will be signing up and logging in with a team of virtual investigators any time soon. For one thing, and I think this needs to be made absolutely clear so that there is no confusion: NO ACTUAL MONEY WAS STOLEN.
The legitimacy of any activities performed by the avatar known as Cally is determined solely by the operators of EVE Online. It is up to EVE Online to reprimand Cally—if in fact, it is determined that he did something against the rules set forth in the EULA. So far, it appears that may not be the case, and at last report, Cally was roaming free—armed and extremely wealthy.
Yes, it is true that some players—in defiance of EVE-Online's EULA—can be found farming and selling items and ISK through various channels. It has been estimated that the stolen 790 billion ISK could fetch as much as $170,000 in the real-world marketplace, and this type of thinking leads some to believe that the overtaxed real-world legal system may at some point get involved when an in-game economic catastrophe occurs.
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