Online universe makes real world cash

By Alex Avakian

David ‘Deathifier’ Storey wakes up and departs to his island every morning. He has to maintain… David ‘Deathifier’ Storey wakes up and departs to his island every morning. He has to maintain the creatures he’s raised and adjust their DNA if necessary, keep the fertilizer station running, maybe bid on a rare item or two and keep his estate in top form for the thousands of visitors who will be traveling through to hunt, mine, party and much more. Storey, 26, is serious about his job. Storey maintains Treasure Island, a scenic, tropical paradise for which he paid $26,500 in December of 2004. Not a bad price for a whole island, right? The only thing is, he will never step foot on it. That’s because Treasure Island is a land mass that is only found inside the virtual world of Swedish software company MindArk’s game ‘Entropia Universe.’ In October of 2005, Jon ‘NEVERDIE’ Jacobs paid $100,000 for the purchase of an asteroid space resort inside ‘Entropia Universe.’ Welcome to the most expensive video game of all time. These two entrepreneurs are now both raking in huge sums of the in-game currency PEDs, or Project Entropia Dollars, which can be exchanged for real life U.S. dollars. They are both making real life, six-figure incomes now. ‘Entropia Universe’ is a form of the massive multiplayer online role playing game. Games like ‘World of Warcraft’ and ‘Everquest’ also fall into this category. These games link hundreds of thousands of players from around the world into one enormous universe that is filled with all sorts of monsters, weapons, armors, items, quests, cities and a variety of different landscapes for players to explore. Individuals create a character or ‘avatar’ and set out into the world, killing things and completing objectives for experience points, which allow characters to gain levels, become more powerful and improve their skills. But don’t think that just anyone can log into a virtual world and make a real life fortune. ‘At the end of the day, ‘Entropia Universe’ for most people is just a super fun game,’ said John Bates, a consultant for the game. ‘Take how many people ride skateboards or something. There are not a lot of people who are making their living skateboarding. It’s a very small number, but they’re having a blast. And then there’s a group below them that are semi-pro who are getting their stuff for free pretty much, and then there’s a group below them, the big group, who are paying for their skateboards and having a really good time, just doing it because it’s really fun.’ There is no main objective inside the game, and that is one of the things that has attracted approximately 700,000 people to make accounts. Instead, players can choose to play the game any number of ways. You can focus exclusively on combat and killing creatures, you can mine resources that are worth valuable PEDs, you can buy your own virtual apartment, and you can get a job as a spaceship pilot, flying people to outer space in exchange for a fee. To do this, though, you first need to know someone who will trust you with his $20,000 (yes, real dollars) ship. All of these actions will also help your character develop the 90-plus skills that are available to him. Nevertheless, ‘Entropia Universe’ is a free game. It’s free to download, and unlike many other games of its type, there is no monthly subscription fee. However, putting in $20 once a month makes a big difference. Using your credit card, you can buy PEDs at an exchange rate of 10 PEDs equaling one dollar. This allows you to buy weapons, ammo, healing packs and any number of the thousands of items inside the game. Buying these items will make it easier for you to accomplish the tasks mentioned above. Naturally, some are significantly more expensive than others. This is the limit of most virtual world style games, but ‘Entropia’ goes much further. On the continent of Amethera, there is a town called New Oxford, which is considered to be the intellectual capital of the game. Designed in conjunction with Professor Ernst Billgren of the Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm, Sweden, the art galleries of New Oxford feature real artists’ works on display. Currently, they are showcasing the art of Mark Kostabi, Kika Karadi and Marc DeMuro, all three of whom are highly successful artists. Using your avatar inside the game, you can pay with PEDs for real, one of a kind art pieces that will ship directly to your home address in the real world. New Oxford also boasts a plethora of fashionable clothing that can be bought in the same way. There are also museums, a music school, banks and much more. As of right now, the planet of Calypso contains all of these things, and Calypso is the only planet available to Entropians so far. But multiple companies, including the official Chinese government, are making plans to create their own unique planets, which will be just as, if not bigger, than Calypso. With an in-game turnover rate of more than $360 million, don’t expect the economy or the world of ‘Entropia Universe’ to go anywhere soon. ‘What that says to me is that people want to have that human connection to be a part of the game,’ said Bates. ‘It says that where the real juice is now in gaming is in virtual worlds. I think that it really points towards gaming coming of age, and it points towards people’s desire to be in things like massive multiplayer online games. The thing [‘Entropia’] kind of hit people over the head with is that gaming is real, and it’s here to stay.’