The company behind Entropia Universe - an online role-playing game that has a real world cash economy - says it will auction five virtual banking licences that will allow financial firms to set up real world banking systems in the cyber universe.
Online science fiction game Entropia Universe has over 500,000 members and had a turnover of over US$160 million in 2005.
The cyber world has a currency that has a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar. Cash can be moved between Entropia Universe and the real world using an ATM card.
Now MindArc, the Sweden-based company that developed Entropia, is offering banks two-year exclusive licenses that will enable them to set up operations in the online world. The licenses will be available through the public auction beginning mid January 2007.
The virtual banks will work in a similar way to real world firms and will initially be provided with secure systems enabling them to lend money to citizens and collect interest payments.
Banks will also be able to partake in the design and naming of their own virtual bank buildings which can be staffed with their own personnel and provide services to Entropia citizens.
Jan Welter Timkrans, MindArk CEO, says: "The prospect of this entirely novel aspect of banking has generated considerable interest amongst many of the top brand names in banking."
In December Dutch banking group ABN Amro set up a virtual financial advice centre in Second Life, another Internet-based role playing game that has a real economy.
The virtual ABN Amro branch resembles the bank's real-life outlets and offers online citizens financial advice.