Score another record for Sweden based virtual world developer MindArk. The First Planet Company, a part of MindArk, and creators and developers of Planet Calypso set out last year to put one of it’s biggest offerings to date up on the auction block: a fully functional (virtual) space station. The final selling price? 3.3 million PED – Project Entropia Dollars, with an exchange rate of 10:1, making the real world price a staggering $330,000.
The winner is one ‘Buzz “Erik” Lightyear. Buzz now holds the property rights to Crystal Palace inside the Planet Calypso world. Granted, a $330k purchase for a virtual property might seem a bit steep to some, as this purchase has raised the bar substantially on private investments in virtual properties, but it’s not without precedent. Back in 2004, David Storey paid $26,500 for a virtual plot of undeveloped land in Project Entropia, while a year later Jon Jacobs dropped $100k on a Project Entropia virtual resort. And let’s not forget about Anshe Chung becoming a real life millionaire via Second Life in 2006.
2009 saw the rise of free-to-play gaming, and a multitude of monetization options. Microtransactions, virtual offers, etc., we’ve seen quite a bit of activity in the sector as of late. With this said, it’s almost a bit surprising to see Mashable author Ben Parr baffled by the sale. Yes, it’s a bit off the beaten path, but given the staggering amounts of revenue social gaming companies such as Zynga are pulling down each month, is it really so unreasonable to treat virtual properties as real world investments? Yes, there are a million and a half unforeseeable variables that could turn your virtual investment into bunk over night….but isn’t that the case with any real world investment? As a point of comparison, we hear about venture capitalists dropping massive amounts of cash into new media companies or web or app development firms. These are physical ‘real world’ investments, but they (more or less) operate on the same platform – all tied to a platform that arguably does or does not exist. With that said, given the economic climate, who’s to say that a real world investment is more concrete than a virtual one? Who’s to say the virtual investment isn’t the safer bet?
Lightyear could be poised to make a killing. Planet Calypso boasts the world’s largest virtual economy, and Buzz now has dibs on one of the biggest, and after the sale, most probably one of the most popular destinations for Planet Calypso players. Within his virtual world within a virtual world, Buzz has complete control over tax rates, what will be sold, to whom, and at what price. With an investment of this size, it’s a forgone conclusion that Lightyear probably already has a virtual world business model in place, and perhaps a team in place to capitalize on the new real estate. If Erik’s investment in Crystal Palace is a success, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a small niche crop of investors that would be willing to take the same leap. If this is the case, the ‘backburner’ secondary, or player-to-player, market could see a massive surge in popularity.