From Virtual to Reality

 In WWNK 1/10/05, we talked about Project Entropia, a sophisticated computer game with (by now) 250,000 players worldwide, touted by its creators as "the first Virtual Universe."

"Set in a distant Sci-Fi future, participants assume the roles of colonists who must develop the untamed planet of Calypso," explains the Entropia website. "Populated with fierce and dangerous creatures, the perilous wilderness on Calypso is also rich in minerals and ore, both of which can be a lucrative source of income for would-be colonists."

Entropia's currency is the PED, linked to the U.S. dollar with a fixed exchange rate of 10:1 (10 PED = 1 US$). With PED's in their (virtual) pockets, Calypso colonists can buy and sell property, tools, weapons and minerals, engage in a wide range of professions and acquire new skills.

So far, so good. But recently the game has made the leap from cyberspace to reality: Entropia players are now in possession of ATM cards, with which they can convert PEDs earned from their transactions in the game to crisp, tangible greenbacks. About 1.65 billion PED's (or $165 million) are currently in circulation.

39-year-old gamer Jon Jacobs from Miami Beach, FL, told the New York Times that in 2005 he sold most of his (physical and virtual) belongings to come up with the money ($100,000 or 1 million PED's) to buy a huge space station in the game. Taxing other players for hunting and mining on his "property" and selling apartments and storefronts, he now has a monthly income of about $12,000.

Jacobs finds that "The ATM card is a huge step forward. . . People are spending $10,000 for land that's not even prime property. Now people are hunting in my resort, and I can take money out and go buy a real dinner. That's fantastic."

Fantastic, indeed. And maybe soon an economic factor to be reckoned with.

Posted 06-27-2006 11:03 PM by Doug Casey