Before blockchain and NFTs, there was the Entropia Universe real-money MMO

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In 2004, a year after the launch of Entropia Universe, MindArk’s real-money economy game, user Deathifier purchased a treasure island on the planet Calypso for 265,000 PED (Entropia Project dollars, or 26 $ 500). Treasure Island went down in history as the most expensive virtual item owned at the time, and Deathifier claimed to break even within a year. He proceeded to fill the island with special crowds, collected a visitor tax, sold houses, and posted updates on the theft of a green Atrox egg for which he offered a reward of 50PED ($ 5).

Deathifier’s entrepreneurial story is a precursor to current blockchain gaming discussions

Over time, the Swedish MMORPG has unveiled more planets, some of which are owned and operated by other companies like Creative Kingdom (Planet Cyrene) and Beladcom (Planet Toulan). It has rolled out all the features you would expect to see in a real money playing field: real estate, pets, resorts, malls, vehicles, and an ATM-like system to cash in on game winnings.

In 2005, Deathifier, an Australian named David Storey, told PC Gamer that “being an Entropia millionaire [would] happen someday. In 2016, long after Entropia Universe made the news, it filed a lawsuit against Planet Arkadia over an intellectual property dispute that has also been largely overlooked, with the exception of an informal forum article. and a disembodied court decision. Two years later, Deathifier appeared to disappear completely from Entropia Universe and other players speculated that his holdings had been annexed by MindArk (when contacted for clarification, a MindArk spokesperson declined to comment. ).

In some ways, Deathifier’s entrepreneurial story is a precursor to current discussions of blockchain games, NFTs, and digital property ideas. But instead of using the cryptocurrency of the month, transactions in Entropia Universe were done with old-fashioned cash.

Entropia Universe is a game specially designed to make you want to spend money, want to money to buy and own things, and nothing else. In its heyday, people were even selling ad space in magazines created by gamers. In 2011, a full-page advertisement in the Entropia Times was at least 500PED. “We apologize for having had to give up the possibility of buying magazines with in-game DEPs,” the editorial team wrote in its third issue, “but this decision was necessary because we are unable to pay printer with PEDs, and the delay with withdrawals would be too long. ”

Today, playing for real money in a game works as usual with microtransactions and real money auctions, but it hasn’t always been so. The early to mid-2000s were a silver era for the Old West for Diablo II dupes, a time when Second Life blew people’s minds with its proto-metaverse economy. There was a fleeting window where Entropia Universe was hot. Even Anshe Chung, one of Second Life’s biggest stars at the time, shelled out $ 60,000 for an Entropia virtual banking license that allowed her to lend money to other users.

(Image credit: MindArk / Mobygames)

There are a few simple Entropia success stories: In 2006, Mike “Ogulak Da Basher” Everest sold enough in-game guns to help send his siblings to college (his mom apparently played too). Entrepreneur Jon “Neverdie” Jacobs mortgaged his real home to buy a virtual asteroid for $ 100,000, turned it into a popular (and profitable) nightclub, and sold it in 2010 for $ 635,000. Jacobs also wrote a song called “Gamer Chick” about his girlfriend and teammate Tina Wiseman, which could, at one point, be played on the game’s jukeboxes. Upon Wiseman’s death in 2005, MindArk built a monument in the game for her.

In 2009, VentureBeat reported that Entropia had over 820,000 registered users and over $ 420 million in user-to-user transactions.

Today, Entropia Universe has around 86,000 subscribers, a fraction of a drop in the bucket compared to other MMOs, but a huge increase from pre-pandemic numbers which have dropped to 18,000. And the number of subscribers still seems to be climbing. Dipping one foot into the Entropia forums, it’s clear that the folks left behind are lifers, and even in the starting area you can see other players dealing with the endless metachore of playing. to a game for money.

Back to Entropia

Entropia Universe Cyclops

(Image credit: MindArk)

There isn’t really an engaging game to play here – it’s really all about the money.

My first foray into Entropia began with a variation of a timeless mantra I once heard in a business owner’s speech years ago. “The most common investment, the one that almost all settlers make, is in the avatar itself,” explains a generic NPC named Sarah Tergus to my newly created character while walking through the basics of the game. The humans have come. in Calypso, the colonization against “horrible” enemies was harsh, now there is a “sophisticated market economy”, and don’t forget the deposit center to convert a bunch of money into DEPs.

Outside in the start area, I meet Mr. Yoshida, who needs me for some shopping. “Not a day goes by that Jimmy, the maintenance technician, cries over his workload,” he tells me, hilariously on the nose for a real cash-saving game.

Like most gacha games, there’s a notification box at the top of the screen that gives you updates on what others are winning. Since I’m brutally attacked by a Daikiba Cub, Entropia maybe wants me to be comforted that someone by the name of Harry Hoob Hoobler just won 56PED ($ 5.60) by killing a Sonic Squid Stalker. I had to use the only PED I won (all 10 cents) not long ago for a quest, and since I’m not willing to spend a dime on this game, it didn’t is no surprise that I am broke.

There is no real narrative in Entropia – a blessing that MindArk is self-aware enough to know that spending time and money on a compelling story wouldn’t pay off for the players who are here for it. ‘enrich or die trying. The MindArk website Is have a section on responsible gambling, which includes a reminder that you can create a support case to change your deposit limits – the kind of reminder you would see at a casino or bookie. When I try to talk to a few other people in the starting area, one ignores me and another gives me a smile.

Visiting this remnant of the old-fashioned money economy game, it’s easy to see why blockchain technology and NFTs have taken hold of a very specific sector of the gaming industry. It’s frankly astonishing that Entropia Universe, a game that still runs on CryEngine2, is able to attract new players to its aggressively generic, story-free world. There isn’t really an engaging game to play here – it’s really about the money.

MindArk now has an agreement with Epic Games to use Unreal 5 for future content, and its promise to remain a “state-of-the-art virtual world” while “pioneering”[ing] the development of the world’s first real-money economy MMORPG “likely means that today’s trends like cryptocurrency and NFTs will eventually emerge. It’s a reminder that nothing has changed in human nature under capitalism since Entropia Universe released its first DEP – we’ve just found more effective ways to get more people involved.

Buying and selling virtual real estate on a decentralized ledger today is just an extension of what MindArk did almost 20 years ago, and it’s depressing as hell. Even the Metaverse is related: In 2019, MindArk announced that it was working on a way to imbue virtual avatars with true human consciousness so that the spirit can live in Entropia.

“If I were to live forever, would I want it to be in Entropia? Because I’m not sure it would be on this planet, and most of the game worlds are even more terrifying,” points out Bree Royce of Massivelyop. But if we create a metaverse where anything is possible, including maintaining an immortal spirit, why on earth would we want to reproduce the same financial drudgery that has so defined our real world?

While MindArk hints that there will be “exciting changes” coming to Entropia Universe in the near future, I bet 0.1PED these changes revolve around a three letter acronym that has already done a lot of damage to Divide artists and creators with scams and stolen artwork. You might think of David “Deathifier” Storey and wonder what really happened to his repo’d properties in a game that took up substantial resources in his life.

From my visit to Calypso, I can safely say that I have never played such a streamlined game towards capital-m Money. Going back in time to Entropia Universe, it looks like we’ve missed an important lesson for the next decade of gaming, one that’s probably too late to learn now.


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