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German stock exchange to launch marketplace for video game objects

Frederic J. Brown, AFP | Gaming fans play Dungeon Defenders II at E3 - the Electronic Entertainment Expo - in Los Angeles, California on June 16, 2015

Germany’s Deutsche Börse plans to launch the world’s first marketplace for virtual objects by the end of the year, in a venture inspired by a group of video game enthusiasts working at the exchange.

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Alexander Höptner works more than 10 hours a day at Deutsche Börse, Germany’s main stock exchange. Then he goes home to spend time with his family, squeezing in two or three hours every evening to play video games. When asked how he manages it, Höptner just smiles and replies, “I don’t sleep a lot.”

He and a group of other Deutsche Börse employees have now, however, found a way of combining their passion for video games with work. The financial institution is poised to launch the first ever trading venue for virtual objects designed for video games.

The marketplace, which will be called Swapster, should be operational before the end of the year according to Höptner, who is in charge of the team responsible for the launch.

“[Virtual objects] are the next class of assets that will become big,” he predicted.

Black market

Video game companies that take part in the venture will be able to decide which virtual objects will be made available on Swapster, while players will also be able to collect or even create items to be traded on the market. These can be anything from a rare building material used in construction simulators to a powerful sword from online role-playing games.

The idea for Swapster came to Höptner and his colleagues, financiers by day and video game enthusiasts by night, after they noticed that illegal sites already existed online where players could exchange real money for virtual objects. Such black market sites are immensely popular among fans of multiplayer role-playing games like the World of Warcraft, where a user’s fate is often determined by the strength of his or her weaponry.

“We’re going to offer the first transparent and regulated global market for this type of goods,” Höptner explained.

Swapster is sure to appeal to video game companies that have been fighting against illegal online marketplaces with mixed results. While Höptner refused to give any specifics, he said that there were already a “good number” of people within the industry interested in the endeavor, some of whom will begin testing the new platform as early as this autumn.

For players 13-years-old and up

The way Höptner and his team see it, Swapster will allow video game companies to benefit while also giving players an opportunity to make a little extra pocket money.

The financial platform, however, will be restricted to players 13 years and over. Meanwhile, those under the age of 18 will only be able to become a trader with “strict parental supervision”, meaning that they will need permission from an adult to access Swapster. Parents will also have the right to set limits on money and validate all transactions.

But by creating a marketplace for virtual objects, Deutsche Börse runs the risk of introducing speculation and a certain kind of professionalisation to an industry that is above all meant to be fun.

Höptner has dismissed such concerns, arguing that Swapster will primarily give players the opportunity “to draw maximum benefit from a passion and, sometimes, hundreds of hours spent creating an object”.

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