When EVE Online began selling premium vanity items this summer, everyone lost their minds and rioted. Granted, these were $68 virtual monocles and such, but they didn't offer any kind of performance advantage. Another space-based MMO, Dark Orbit decided to offer a rare spacecraft with a value of €1.000 (roughly $1,300) and found more than 2,000 takers. Willing seller, willing buyer and all that.
The item in question is some kind of level 10 drone—player spacecraft in the game can be supported in combat by drones. They have ranks spanning 1 through 10. No. 10, aka Zeus, is a real bitch to earn in the game. So Dark Orbit's maker, Bigpoint Games, said what the hell and offered them for sale.
[Update] Bigpoint Games has written Kotaku to say that the Drones in question may be bought with in-world currency. One must acquire all of the lower-ranking drones first, though. To buy this drone without acquiring any of the others first, one would need in-world currency equal to €1.000 to buy the full set. Players can acquire that much cash in-world, but it takes quite a bit of effort and time. Players may also acquire that currency in a real-world cash transaction; Bigpoint Games sometimes holds "sales"—basically a more favorable exchange rate. So while Bigpoint Games has "sold" 2,000 of the Level 10 drones this month, it has no idea how much money it has actually made from those sales. In any event, it is inaccurate to say they've made €2 million off the sale of 2,000 virtual items.
The original post follows.
VentureBeat notes that Germany-based Bigpoint, which specializes in free-to-play browser-based games, is looking at €200 million in virtual goods revenue for the year. Not hard to see why the free-to-play gold rush, which has seen major titles like Team Fortress 2 and DC Universe Online convert to the model this year, is such a popular strategy.