When Linden Labs announced several months ago that players would retain ownership rights to property within its online game, Second Life, many saw that as a potential turning point in the "virtual property" paradigm. Where most publishers have either fought players to maintain rights to digital property or have remained indifferent to the practice of buying and selling online items, Linden has embraced the concepts of virtual/real world commerce and virtual property ownership, even going so far as to "tax" real estate within the game.
It is apparently paying off, as CNN reports in this article, outlining the success of Second Life:
It turns out people are motivated to buy virtual real estate for some of the same reasons they buy it in the real world.
"My vision is to buy real estate in 'Second Life' with one or two other investors and make it available to new players as a business," says a Portland-based player known as Merwin Marker.
Marker owns an ocean-front spread on which he heads Awakening Avatars, the fourth-most-popular social group in the game.
His two-thirds of an acre property could fetch as much as 10 Linden dollars a square meter, or $106 at today's exchange rate, a bit higher than the average price of about $100 for an acre.
Since the company began allowing the sale of property, growth of the game increased by two-thirds and the company adds between 30 and 40 new computers a month, each creating a new island out of an endless digital sea.
The company, which is backed by Lotus Development Corp. founder and high-tech investor Mitchell Kapor, has about 10,000 active players.
While the number of players may seem small compared to titles such as EverQuest and Lineage, it is apparent that Second Life is carving out a niche for itself and is blazing conceptual trails that "bigger" games may be forced to follow.
Visit the official Second Life website by clicking here.