Virtual developers net £50,000

Thousands of Britons are earning lucrative second incomes in a virtual marketplace where they can provide, trade and design synthetic goods and services.

Having gained almost 130,000 players in the last year, the 3D marketplace in Second Life is rewarding in-game traders with yearly profits of over £50,000.

Linden Lab, the game's makers, said the transfer rate of virtual goods and services has "accelerated dramatically", swelling the game's economy and total population by more than 20 per cent each month.

The company said it is not concerned Britons are logging on just for money-making opportunities, as Second Life "can be whatever experience players want it to be."

"Already, thousands of people are making money in Second Life; doing all kinds of things - buying and selling land, designing clothes, furniture and modeling vehicles and robots.

"We even had a detective agency for a time, all you need is one good idea," Linden Lab said in a statement to Contractor UK.

Chris Mead, a former factory worker from Norfolk, is just one of Second Life's 150,000-strong army, who turned his virtual idea into a commercial success.

Pitching to players who were fed up with of the appearance of in-game 'avatars,' Mead began selling animations of characters that were more lifelike and less chunky than the originals.

Costing just over 60p to design, Mead reportedly quit his job at an electronics warehouse after his first weekly earnings rolled in at around $2,000.

According to The Times, the 36-year-old is thought to be the first Briton to subsist entirely from trading in a virtual world.

Yet Linden Lab pointed out that last year alone, over $3.4million (£1.9m) in goods and services was exchanged by Second Life residents every month.

Around 500 players, signed up as landowners, tax agents and fashion designers, earn a monthly sum of Linden dollars, in-game currency, which are exchanged for real-world revenues exceeding $1,000.

"We don't consider Second Life a game," Contractor UK was told.

"In fact, we're the opposite of a videogame - there's no goal, there's complete freedom to do what you want, the residents create and own the content they make, not Linden Lab.

"When we gave Second Life residents the intellectual property rights to all the content they created in Second Life, it was because we believed that their ownership would make Second Life a better place - and it has."

The company's David Fleck said their goal is to provide the platform and tools to ensure developers can create "compelling content easily and efficiently."

In a statement to the press, the firm added it was like a dream come true to see Second World, a fledgling title with just 20,000 players in 2005, provide an eclectic cast of vibrant characters and amazing stories 'just like the real-world.'

"Second Life can be whatever experience you want it to be," a spokeswoman added.

"Many people come to Second Life to be social and hang out. Others like the creative freedom to build and script whatever they want, and there are still others who are experimenting with businesses, research and education projects, to see how far they can push the experience."

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