The company behind Entropia Universe - an online role-playing game that has a cash economy - has been granted a real world banking licence by Swedish regulators, enabling it to set up a virtual central bank.
Launched in 2003 and with over 820,000 registered accounts, the Entropia Universe has a currency, the PED, that has a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar. User-to-user transactions within the cyber world exceeded $420 million during 2008.
Hard cash can be moved between Entropia Universe and the real world using an ATM card.
Now Entropia developer MindArk has been granted a licence for its bank by the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finansinspektionen). This will enable the so-called Mind Bank to function as a central bank for all virtual worlds within the Entropia Universe.
The company plans to team with the developers of the different virtual "worlds" within the universe to offer inhabitants real banking services, incorporating real money transactions.
Mind Bank will also offer selected bank services to customers on the conventional market.
In 2007 MindArk sold five virtual banking licenses to real world banks and entrepreneurs for a total of $404,000 in an auction.
The granting of a licence means MindArk Bank will have to follow real world regulations, helping to build trust in the virtual economy.
Last year Linden Labs, the San Francisco-based creator of 3D online universe Second Life, banned all unregistered and unregulated 'banks' from the virtual world following complaints about several 'in-world banks' defaulting on their promises.