The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, as it has come to be known, prevents governments from claiming heavenly bodies, but it makes no mention of the private individual. This resulted in several "organizations" selling deeds for lunar property for as little as $29.99.
In the "one small step for man, one giant leap for insanity" department, some space property has just sold for $100,000. However, this property isn't only in outer space: It's in cyberspace.
Project Entropia, a massively multiplayer online game from Swedish developer MindArk, is like other MMOs in the sense that gamers from around the world can live an alternate life in a digital realm, forming communities and friendships while defending a realm from foreign invaders.
What makes Entropia different is its economy. Instead of relying on copper pieces or fictional credits, Entropia is based on a real cash economy. The Project Entropia Dollar has a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar of 10 to 1, and real cash can be traded in for virtual currency and vice versa, giving players the opportunity to make money playing the game. The game is free to download and requires no subscription fees. After players create a character, it's every entrepreneur for him- or herself.
At its most basic, players can kill wildlife and sell pelts for PEDs, or they can mine some ore and then cash it in. More complex, though, is the idea of property ownership. MindArk will, at times, open up new areas to auction off the land. Land owners can choose to sell individual plots, or they can rent and/or sell property on the new virtual terrain. The virtual-reality realtors also own the rights to property, mining, and hunting taxes that are applicable to players visiting their space(s).
Last year, one Entropia player purchased Treasure Island, a lush island "discovered" by the game designers, for 265,000 PEDs (the equivalent of $26,500).
"I intend to create a thriving, fully functional settlement for all to enjoy," said buyer David Storey at the time of purchase. "The goal is to make Treasure Island the best it can be to serve the population of Calypso."
One of Storey's competing bidders for the island was Jon Jacobs, an independent film director, actor, and producer. When MindArk announced it would be auctioning off a new space resort orbiting Calypso, Jacobs wasn't about to let this hot property slip through his fingers. Earlier this week, Neverdie, the name of Jacobs' in-game avatar, was the highest bidder (emphasis on "high")--who met the asking price of 1 million PEDs, or $100,000. The property will be delivered to Jacobs in December.
The resort features a 1,000-unit apartment complex, a shopping mall, a stadium for sporting events, 10 hunting biodomes, a nightclub, and an amphitheater. As owner, Jacobs rules the land and will decide what plays over the space station's public address system and what videos play on the many billboards and in biodomes. For a fee, he can also advertise on Calypso via a video billboard network.
Jacobs, whose movie Hey DJ is doing the indie circuit, plans on naming the resort Club Neverdie. "I'm already in talks with some of the worlds biggest DJs about spinning Live sets inside the nightclubs. Gamers want to be entertained while they play, hunt, socialize, and craft--and because of the real-cash economy aspects of Project Entropia, they can afford to pay for their entertainment," he says.
MindArk estimates Project Entropia's 2005 GNP to reach 1.5 billion PEDs.