Wednesday, 6 January 2010

$330k for Virtual Property

Has anyone heard of Entropia Universe? I have, a while ago, during research for my master's thesis but I never thought it to be very interesting.
Well, seems I was wrong - on Dec 28th last year, a space station in the virtual world of Entropia Universe sold for 3.3 million Project Entropia Dollars (PED.) What makes this number so surprising is that PED can be traded for US dollars at a fixed 10:1 exchange rate. That means that the player with the handle Buzz Erik Lightyear paid $330,000 for a piece of virtual property, a new record high for virtual currency transactions.

In the previous years, real money trading (RMT) in Second Life was all the rage among researchers. Now Entropia Universe comes along with outrageous figures like this one. Personally, I never understood the lure of Second Life - it wasn't even a real game and looked terrible to boot. Entropia Universe apparently has real game elements, but from the videos I've seen, the gameplay is worse than what most free-to-play MMOs offer. Not even mentioning current generation AAA titles. What is it about these social worlds that make players spend so much time and money inside?

Second Life and Entropia Universe have in common that RMT is not only allowed but encouraged by the game's operators. While Linden Labs (makers of Second Life) doesn't take back virtual currency like Mindark (Entropia Universe developer) does, they too offer an easy to use platform for RMT exchanges. Is it this focus on "real value" of virtual goods that makes these worlds interesting for so many people? Or are these worlds simply made for a different audience than run-of-the-mill MMOs?
I'd be very interested in your opinions on this, especially if someone has actually played Second Life or Entropia Universe for a longer period of time. Me, I can't see any reason to spend money on them.
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