The Lindens published a massive economic wrap-up of Second Life's virtual economy in 2009 earlier today, but as with most macroeconomic reports, the broad strokes tend to overwhelm. It's impressive that user-to-user transactions of Linden Dollars totaled US$567 million for the year, for instance, but it's difficult to put faces to those numbers. I can visualize fifty faces, however, which is why I'm more struck by the figures given below, under Gross Resident Earnings, which tracks the total amount of US currency Residents cashed out of the system:
- Gross Resident Earnings... totaled US$55 million
- More than 50 accounts earned more than US$100,000 each
- The top 25 accounts, as a group, earned about US$12 million
So last year, fifty avatars (some of whom may be owned by the same individual) processed out US$ in the six figure range -- half of them in the mid six figure range or higher. If I'm doing my envelope math right, these 50 accounts captured over a quarter of the $55 million total gross.
These fifty avatars represent the diamond sharp pinnacle of economic success in Second Life. "In 2009," Linden PR Specialist Peter Linden told me, "there were 1.5 million users active in the economy, meaning they were on one end of a user-to-user L$ transaction of some sort." From that 1.5 million, an average of about 65,000 users had a positive monthly Linden Dollar income every month, he added.
The next couple obvious questions, of course, are: Which avatars, and in what businesses?
Many of those 50 are likely in land rentals and virtual real estate, which means they incur a lot of land purchase and tier expenses that eat into their six figure gross. However, it's also likely that many of that 50 are selling virtual items like clothing, or offering services. Among the top ten Resident earners, a Linden exec said last year, "[include] a company that does events and one that designs virtual goods including shoes." Chief Product Officer Tom Hale (who filed the economic report as T Linden), reported last September that the top merchant in Second Life is making $1 million a year selling virtual sweaters and skirts. For these virtual business people, the margin costs of production are so low (Internet connectivity and computer hardware/software, mostly), that it's accurate to say they're earning close to a six figure income.