If you haven’t heard of the game Entropia Universe, you owe it to yourself to spend some time in this vast, immersive virtual reality landscape. When you do, in addition to making new friends and finding literally thousands of hours’ worth of content to explore, you’ll also catch a glimpse of the direction of our real world, global economy, and the direction that it’s moving in.
Entropia Universe is a self-governing game, and recently, John NEVERDIE Jacobs was elected to the post of “President of Virtual Reality” in the game. His first announcement in office has certainly raised some eyebrows. He made the provocative claim that his intention was to bridge the gap between the real world and the digital, and upend the entire gaming pricing paradigm, which, in the realm of online games is essentially subscription-based. In other words, you pay a modest fee each month, and you get access to the content.
This method was pioneered by Blizzard Entertainment, with the launch of the venerable “World of Warcraft” universe, and has been the de facto standard, ever since. If Jacobs has anything to say about it, that may be about to change.
How Jacobs’ plan will work
To understand how Jacobs’ plan will work, you must first understand something about the game that the plan exists in. Entropia Universe is a system of interconnected planets you can explore and socialize in. To get from one planet to another, you make use of the public transport system, which is a teleportation network that gets you from one place in the game to another. Jacobs plans to privatize this public transportation system, and turn gamers into employees. They’ll be responsible for building and maintaining the infrastructure that makes teleportation possible, and they’ll be compensated for their work.
To get things started, Jacobs has offered to pay his eager new workforce $180 for their first year playing while the groundwork is being laid. After that, he plans to institute minimum wage laws in VR-space, paying a minimum of $2.50 per hour or basic work, and a minimum of $5.00 per hour of skilled labor on behalf of the game. Entropia Universe is free to play of course, so it’s a fair question to ask where the money to do all of this is going to come from. The answer is actually embedded within the framework of the game itself. As with so many online offerings, while it’s true that you CAN play for free and enjoy it immensely, there are also pay gates that require micro-payments to unlock certain features or capabilities, and in practice, many gamers will, at some point, break down and make payments here and there for various services.
Right now, the public transportation network within the game is offered at no cost to the user base, but the day is coming when it too, will be part of the micro-payment ecosystem. Once that’s in place, if you want to leave the world you’re on, and move to another, you’ll be required to pay a nominal fee.
People unfamiliar with the world of Entropia Universe might balk at this and wonder if such a plan is even viable. It is, and Jacobs is living proof. The game recently set a Guinness World Record for offering for sale the most expensive virtual object of all time when a virtual space station (and popular gaming destination) was put up for auction and sold for a staggering $335,000 USD. Less than a year later, Jacobs sold off ownership of his virtual nightclub, “Club NeverDie,” which shattered the old record when it sold for a whopping $635,000 USD.
To top that, in 2014, Planet Arkadia (one of the worlds in the game) began selling Arkadia Underground Deeds, for $5.00 USD each. These deeds give players an ownership stake in the virtual planet itself. Given that 200,000 such deeds were issued, that puts the value of a planet that doesn’t actually exist anywhere but virtual space, at a cool one million dollars, and in case you’re curious, the deeds are selling like hotcakes.
All of this to say that Jacobs may be onto something. You can regularly find virtual objects for online games all over the ‘net, including games you’ve probably heard a lot about like World of Warcraft and EVE Online, so the concept itself is not new.
One thing we know for certain: There are a lot of gamers. Nearly a billion and a half around the world. In fact, if the gamers of the world were their own nation, they would easily be the largest, most populous nation on the planet.
In addition to that, gamers are a dedicated bunch, spending scores of hours at a time for months on end working cooperatively toward shared goals. And they’ve got money to spend, when the expenditure will help them achieve whatever goals they’re currently working toward.
Again though, Jacobs plans to upend the model. The thinking here is that if the gamers of the world are willing to spend all that time, and their own money to play a game they truly enjoy, then imagine how much more enthusiastic they’ll be about spending time in their favorite virtual reality spaces if they’re being paid to do so. He calls it the “conscription vs. subscription” plan.
At this point, it’s too early to say how effective Jacobs’ plan will be, or if he’ll be able to make good on his pledge and prediction of creating more than three million new jobs, courtesy of a virtual world, but as the numbers above indicate, there’s certainly a market for virtual goods and services, and people are willing (and have) paid top dollar to acquire them. Given that, is it really so far-fetched to imagine a world where one could make real money by doing something in the context of a virtual space? Certainly not.
If you’re curious to learn more, then the first, best thing you can do is head to the game site and start spending time in the virtual realms of Entropia Universe. Whether you ultimately love it or hate it, one thing is an absolute certainty: It will be a fascinating, eye-opening experience.
See you there?