New Fort Knox Dome, Moonbase Alpha, Colonial Lunar Administration Zone -- 18 Apr. 2057: The Bureau of Market Stabilization has declared a formal economic emergency and deployed its counterweight traders to shore up values of practically all virtual currencies. After a number of severe value spikes, the Central Currency Clearinghouse is in freefall this day, with over 50 kinds of game, fantasia and other hedonic currencies losing half of their value or more.
The collapse in the virtual-currencies market is widely believed to be the result of the tragic and much-publicized death of Ampstead Axelrod Vikkenssen, a virtual-experience addict whose inability to cope with reality led him into an elaborate suicide. The incident severely damaged the value of premier gaming experience ArcWorld, which was Mr. Vikkenssen's escape of choice -- both the stock value of the game's publisher Unreality, and the market value of the game's virtual currency, the Arc. "As ArcWorld is one of the system's largest and most popular virtual environments," we were told by Dr. John Jacob Smith, a senior economics professor at Asimov University, "its in-game currency is central to the VC market. In some ways, the market value of the Arc is more economically important even than the value of the standard Alliance credit, which is subject to tight macro-economic controls. The makers of ArcWorld have had little concern and less understanding of economic policy; it's never even really been on their radar."
As the value of the Arc nose-dived, traders fled to other virtual currencies, only to abandon them at the first sign of price instability. "First the ISK went belly-up," explains Dr. Smith, "followed by the Endless Fantasy Gil, the Linden Dollar, the Nickelodeon Arcade Nickel, and the Steamworks Pound Sterling. After that, they started dropping like flies. Companies without effective in-game economic controls are suffering complete economic meltdown which may require them to completely reboot their in-game economies just to maintain playability, and even games which maintain some form of macro policy are taking a severe beating."
According to Dr. Smith, the crash was a disaster waiting to happen. "The entire virtual-currencies market has been in a bubble for years," he stated in an audio interview. "The Arc was severely overvalued, and was just waiting for a spark to set off a panic. If the Bureau of Market Stabilization had been bidding the value of virtual currencies down like we've been telling them they ought, they wouldn't be bidding them up now. But New Fort Knox hates trying to deflate bubbles, especially since that incident with heavy-gas futures during the previous coalition. In that case, it turned out to be politically motivated; there was no real bubble, and so the Department got chewed out something fierce. Now they won't even touch the most obvious bubble; they'd rather wait for it to burst, and try to clean up the mess afterward. It's never as effective; we're in for a rough year or two. Lucky for me, I had a few centicredits tied up betting against virtual currencies. Those bets have now paid off in full."