The problem with a legal solution, when it comes to the virtual property issue, according to Richard, is, "We know the people who run IGE, and they are so well-protected, you wouldn't even begin to know who to sue." Robert adds some perspective from his end of the business - trying to find a way to confront overseas sellers - saying, "The copyright laws are different over there. Plus, try suing someone internationally, and the expenses are astronomical. Plus, there's companies that provide service for companies that provide service for companies that provide services for the little person sitting in a shack in the middle of nowhere that happens to have a computer. Try going through that. It's ridiculous."

Shifting the conversation to Asia, Richard gives us a bit of insight into the Asian gaming culture. "Using Lineage as a touchstone," he says, "And Korea and Taiwan, where 20 percent of the population of those countries are active subscribers to Lineage today ... that level of penetration is approaching things like Coca-Cola, and when you have that amount of penetration, of course you are going to see the cross-section of life issues that show up. That's why, occasionally, a press report comes out about how in Asia, some guys in a massively multi-player online game got in the real world and killed each other. Well, it's like 20% of the population [of the country] is in this game. Out of five people, someone is going to commit suicide. In fact, it's probably a low rate, so people should probably play this game so they don't commit suicide. They probably have a more fulfilled life than those that are not playing."

Is 20% penetration realistic for the United States? Richard says the outlook is hazy. "Possible? Of course, it's possible. Is it reality? Who knows. No one in their right mind is predicting that sort of thing. But on the flip side, though, every year that I've been in this business, [they've said] that the market is surely saturated by now, surely it won't grow again. It started with Ultima Online. The sales predictions for Ultima Online were 15,000 units prior to its release. Then, of course, 50,000 people paid us to become part of the beta testing cycle, which immediately told people that the predictions were a little off. And, of course, it was the fastest selling PC game in history at the time, and it outsold all the previous Ultimas by a factor of five or ten. Even then, people were like, 'Oh, that's because Ultima's got a hardcore fan base of 20 years, and surely this isn't going to be repeatable by anything other than something like an Ultima,' and then, of course, EverQuest comes out and does about twice that." It's a familiar picture, one where, "each year, there is the latest and greatest, which brings in another few hundred thousand to million people, and now WoW, which has a couple million people, and each time it just gets bigger and bigger."

Richard contrasts the U.S. to Asia, saying, "The thing that [is] unique about Asia, compared to the U.S., are things like broadband penetration, because they are densely populated areas. There are things like, in Korea, for example, game machines were banned up until recently because of a holdover from World War II that they didn't want to import Japanese console machines. If you're a gamer in Korea, you're a PC gamer, not a console gamer, and those kinds of things drive it to a uniquely rapid and high point. Fundamentally, over the long haul, there's no reason to think that culturally, as we're all becoming one world - because we really are blending even our gameplay styles, where it used to be all PvP over there and all PvE over here, and slowly those things are coming together."

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