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Virtual World, Real Millions

Money Programme: Friday, June 1st at 7pm on BBC-2.

Millions of us are opting out of real life and signing up to "live" in computer worlds like Second Life instead. And there is a fortune to be made there. Reporter Max Flint sets up shop in the cyber world and finds out how it's possible to live a virtual life and make a real fortune. Multi-nationals like Reebok, Nissan and Calvin Klein are now also getting in on the act. Then there are fantasy games like World of Warcraft which has over eight million paying members and the newly launched Lord of the Rings virtual world. Both are proof that there are real fortunes to be made in cyber space.

More and more people are turning their backs on the real world to spend time on their computers in places that don't really exist. Whether it's on an artificial continent, a fantastic world of monsters, deep in space or in a city full of Superheroes - these virtual online worlds are attracting thousands of visitors every week. 'The Money Programme's reporter Max Flint travels deep into this alternative reality to meet the inhabitants who have seen a way to make serious money.

The programme explores two different examples of virtual worlds. First, places such as 'Second Life' which attempts to recreate, in an exaggerated version, the real world, with real trading and real money changing hands, but which is free to enter. Secondly, 'Massively Multiplayer Online Games' (MMORPG) in which players adopt amazing characters to explore fantasy worlds but which charge monthly subscriptions to participants.

The programme looks at the rapid growth of virtual worlds and meets its entrepreneurs who are hoping to strike it rich as virtual landlords and builders.

Max Flint also travels to San Francisco to meet one of the industry's biggest names: Philip Rosedale the creator of 'Second Life'. He also meets the people behind Reebok's virtual shop and in London, visits marketing company Rivers Run Red which has amassed a multi-million pound turnover by doing all its business inside virtual worlds.

The programme also explores the phenomenal popularity of MMORPG and meets David Solari, Vice President of Codemasters Online Gaming, who has just launched a new game which he hopes will become one of the most popular in the world; its based on J.R.R. Tolkien 's 'Lord of the Rings'. The programme investigates 'Virtual Crime' and how the industry is responding to MMORPG players who illegally trade items for real money.

This Money Programme is breaking new ground. It will be the first time the BBC has broadcast a programme in Second Life. It can be seen at the Rivers Run Red Cinema (coordinates 200, 123, 45) at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm on 1st June.

Producer / Director: Steve Crabtree

Editor : Clive Edwards

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