How EVE Online Predicted the Great Recession
On Gamasutra, Ramin Shokrizade explains how, when the MMO EVE Online was launched in 2003, factories were too cheap and thus instantly snapped up by speculators instead of people who wanted to actually use them:
My solution was to greatly raise the rents on these factories so that only those that were actually actively running them would want to hold them. The idea was to create a “hot potato” effect where no rational person would want these factories unless they were doing a lot of output with them.
[In the real world,] …high property taxes reduce the value of property, again due to the “hot potato” effect. Low property taxes raise the value of property and trigger speculation. In a “high tax” environment, only those that really need the property will be motivated to hold it. Families would be a good example of a group that “needs” property, some place to live. In a low tax environment, speculation makes property values so high that people seeking homes have a hard time affording them.
There was one additional difference in the real world, however. EVE Online is not a closed system. By this I mean that when a tax or rent is paid in EVE, this does not cycle back into the economy, it just magically disappears. In the real world, when a property tax is paid it cycles back into the economy through expenditures on public infrastructure such as education and road maintenance. Thus when the property taxes were lowered the result was a widespread degradation in public infrastructure, an effect not observed in EVE.