The Rise of Real Cash Economy Games

Sixteen years ago, it all started with a project and a revolutionary idea; that a game could have a true economy and that players could live and work within that virtual environment, trading the goods and services of a digital realm with each other for real money.  The developer of this system was MindArk, and the platform they would introduce that fateful year was Project Entropia. Utilizing the Project Entropia Dollar, an early (perhaps the first) digital currency, they pegged it to the US Dollar at 10:1 and let the economy inside of the game grow organically.  For the last decade and a half, this game has ebbed and flowed, and thrived. Boasting over a million active accounts, the player-base in the game is mature, dedicated, and hardworking within the digital realm they have built on the foundation that MindArk and its planet partners have provided.

It was only a matter of time before other developers wanted to get in on the opportunity that a Real Cash Economy (RCE) game could offer, and with the rise of crypto currency and the blockchain, perhaps one of the most powerful computer technologies to date, new games have started to come onto the scene.  This doesn’t include the new crop of free scratch-off and lottery games that have started to spring up on the Google Play store, offering the possibility of money in exchange for watching a veritable boatload of ads instead of paying a dollar a play. The two games I have most recently run into are curious in design and require some digging into.  The first has a relatively high barrier to entry, whereas the second does not.  

The first is the game Decentraland, a real cash economy that runs on the Ethereum Blockchain.  Like in EU, you can purchase pieces of property in exchange for money, and then develop that property in an effort to provide experiences to players.  As of now, Decentraland is still in its infancy; it does appear that you can now create an avatar to play, so the game is apparently live, though I have yet to explore it; that may come in a future video.  All of the initial, and perhaps planned digital real estate for Decentraland is now owned by players, whether purchased to actually play, develop, or hold as investment property. It has the potential to supplant EU as the premier MMORCE, however as yet, it does not appear to have the reknown.  With the ever-growing influence of the blockchain, to the point that China is now developing their own, state-backed crypto, this is likely to change in the near future.

The other Real Cash Economy game I want to talk about is more strategic in its scope, and it’s called 0x Universe.  Like Decentraland, 0xU is on the Ethereum Blockchain, although in a fit of irony, it uses ETH instead of ZRX as its currency.  I downloaded this game and put some Ether into it; and it looks promising, though like all RCE games, the startup is slow. You buy planets and build spaceships, then go searching for other planets.  You can then sell those planets, or use them for resources. Alternatively, you can “rent” the planets; this is effectively selling your colonists in exchange for ETH. As the planets use population as a resource, you can “lease” them to players that need extra people in exchange for real money; this depletes the resource for your use, but you gain ETH in return.  Good thing these aren’t real people!

As of this writing, I have bought two planets and invented a spaceship, which I will launch when I’m comfortable that I have the appropriate buffer in resources.  The total cost to me has been less than $2, much lower than any start up cost for a normal video game, but like all RCE games, it comes with a catch, especially as it’s a blockchain game; every action or transaction incurs a fee for the processing on the blockchain (essentially paid to miners for the use of their memory).  This means that most if not all actions are going to cost you money, even if it’s less than a penny. This is something important to keep in mind when looking at playing the game.

I’ll continue to explore these games and others as they pop up, but both look promising; that said, I doubt either will unseat EU as the monolith of RCE games; that said, anything can happen, and the technology is young.  The future looks bright for both Crypto, and Real Cash Economy games!

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