If you want to make some real-world money, grab a pickaxe and start digging for emeralds in Minecraft.
A Chilean game developer named Mego is taking custom Minecraft servers in a unique direction. The developer set up a public Minecraft server called BitQuest in which players can earn Bitcoins by trading in emeralds, a precious stone that serves as in-game currency in Minecraft. Players earn 1 bit for each emerald they deposit with an in-game bank.
One Bitcoin is composed of 1 million bits, and is currently worth around $350. That effectively means each emerald in Mego’s new version of Minecraft is worth $0.00035. BitQuest requires players to have a virtual “wallet” through the Xapo company in order to withdraw emeralds from the game as Bitcoins.
Mojang, the developer of Minecraft, added emeralds to the game in May, 2012. Emeralds can be earned either through digging up rare emerald ore, or by trading items with villagers to receive emeralds in return. Villagers want different items in exchange for emeralds. This system is still in place in BitQuest, which means trading with villagers is the best way for players to earn emeralds.
While emeralds are in-game currency for Minecraft, Bitcoin is a digital currency that’s accepted by a growing number of companies, including Microsoft.
Companies have been setting up custom Minecraft servers for years, incorporating special mods or gameplay modes and then establishing a profit model by subscription fees or microtransactions. Pay-per-win systems on some of these custom servers were the focus of the kerfluffle in June when the creator of Minecraft, Marcus “Notch” Persson took issue with those systems.
BitQuest does not represent the first time that a virtual currency could be exchanged for real-world currency. Linden dollars, the virtual currency in Second Life, have been tradable for U.S. dollars since 2005.
BitQuest also does not represent the first time that a virtual currency has had a valuation in real-world currency. The primary, virtual currency of EVE Online is the Inter Stellar Kredit (ISK). EVE Online players may use ISK to pay for their subscription fees, via purchasing an item sold on the in-game marketplace called PLEX. Game time can also be paid for in real-world currency.
Therefore, if one takes the value of a certain amount of game time, and then correlates that with the number of ISK required to purchase the same amount of game time, one can determine the virtual exchange rate of ISK in real-world dollars. This is the formula for how people determine how much real-world money is lost in the huge battles that take place in EVE Online, by calculating the number of ISK lost through destruction of virtual items (i.e. ships) in the game. Developer CCP has their own economist to regulate the financial system of EVE Online.