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US$330,000 Paid for Crystal Palace Virtual Space Station

Back in 2005 I was inspired to write a series of about nine 'poetic monologues' (for want of a better description) themed around the idea of a future where people were addicted to Virtual Reality Worlds in which they spent excessive amounts of money on virtual products. In essence buying things that don't exist in the real world.

Money for Nothing was my working title of the series which is still bubbling away at the back of my mind. Some day the ideas may inspire a Science Fiction novel. For now you can watch me recite one of the monologues, called Rachael in my Animation and Video Blog. The accompanying post, Shopping at Marcy's, is the start of a story that didn't eventuate.

Back to the topic, noting that my inspiration for the monologues was an observation I made about people increasingly paying for products that have no physical form in the real world. For example, buying ringtones for your mobile phone.

When you buy a ringtone, no physical product is exchanged. What you get is an electronic code (often in the form of an 'MP3 file') that will make your phone play the ringtone you've bought.

This type of thing is becoming more and more common place with more and more kinds of products, many of them used to (or still do) have physical products in the real world. Ebooks are a good example. Many books can now be bought in electronic form. Nothing physical changes hands just electronic code.

Another example is music. Instead of buying your favorite bands CD you can now download their entire catalogue from Itunes - without ever receiving any kind of physical, hold in your hand, product.

Virtual Worlds like Second Life are already popular amongst millions of people. It's well known amongst users that you can set up almost any kind of business in many of these worlds, earning real money from Virtual Products.

So is it really so surprising that recently a man paid US$330,000 to own a Virtual Space Station in the virtual universe, Entropia?

Entropia Universe is a huge, online multiplayer role playing game that has a real cash economy. US$1 can buy you 10 PEDs (Project Entropia dollars) in the virtual world.

The buyer, known as Buzz “Erik” Lightyear, won the Crystal Palace Space Station that orbits the Planet Calypso for 3,300,000 PED (which translates to US$330,000) in an online auction. The video below gives you something of a virtual tour of the aforementioned Space Station.



Whilst it may seem some-what crazy the basic principle is no different to buying real estate in the real world. The Crystal Palace Space Station will probably generate plenty of real world dollars for it's owner off the shops, transactions, and activities that occur on his virtual space station.

Plus, lets not forget, it's a space station. There's a certain 'cool' factor here in that, how many people do you know that own a space station - especially a virtual one?

That said the Space Station's owner hasn't bought anything physical. The space station exists nowhere except as a chunk of electronic code. It's not entirely money for nothing but it's almost as close as you can get without actually giving your money away.

I can only imagine that this kind of thing is going to become more and more common as the speed and reach of the internet and it's online worlds grow. It's not quite the Matrix yet but more of us will be 'plugging in' to virtual worlds where we are free to become anything we want far beyond what we might be in the real world.

Virtual Worlds offer freedom from the laws of physics - people can fly in Second Life - or the moralities of society. Why not go on a killing spree if nobody really dies?

Could we ever get to the point where living in a virtual world is preferable to real life?

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