Americans love games. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, and of course the passion for games isn’t limited to this country. From the beautiful simplicity of tic-tac-toe to board games like checkers and Monopoly, card games and on up to the sophisticated gaming systems like Xbox and Wii, the quest for entertainment has been a constant.
Grand Theft Auto rolled into stardom with its high-tech portrayal of a futuristic city that mimicked New York, called Liberty City. Names ranging from The Statue of Happiness, GetaLife Building and Rotterdam Tower are obvious tips of the hat to the Big Apple. But Grand Theft Auto is a bit darker and more violent than many gamers prefer and for many the search for a virtual world with nearly infinite possibilities and less crime has lead to Second Life, or SL.
Now with the current near historic real estate and housing market slump, it’s only natural that Second Life, arguably one of the most popular virtually reality games, might be even more appealing to new gamers tired of the gloom and doom of real life real estate.
Second Life started up in 2003 and is owned by Linden Lab. The whole premise of the game is based on virtual real estate, and just like in real life, money can be made by it. That’s real money, converted from the Linden Dollar currency used in the game. If you want to really enjoy the possibilities offered and have some serious fun in Second Life, you have to own land to do it. In reality players are leasing the virtual land, they don’t really own it, but the premise is the same.
A player wants a small parcel of land pays a fee every month, similar to rent. As you move up in land ownership, you pay more per month. The more land you own, the more you can do in Second Life. It’s the ultimate in real estate speculation without the risk. You have to be premium member of Second Life to own land, and the more land you own the higher your monthly fee is to Linden Lab. Players can own small parcels without paying any more than the basic monthly fee or you can opt for your own island. Linden auctions off parcels of land or you can buy and sell with other residents of Second Life.
There have been undocumented cases of residents generating a secondary income or even making their living off of real estate deals in Second Life. Reselling virtual land or renting out parcels can generate a monthly income, as strange as it may seem. If you think about it, besides the monetary aspect, it could become very addictive to some players. You would have all of the excitement of real estate deals, speculation and potential profit or loss without the headaches of insurance, mortgages or taxes. That has to be a major draw for some residents of the virtual game.
The value of land in Second Life can be increased much the same way as in real life. Residents can improve the land by building houses, adding businesses or even landscaping the property. A resident of SL could purchase enough land to develop projects as big as these luxury condos in Chicago http://www.chicagocondodirectory.com/luxury-condos and rent or sell the units for an income.
By the same token, Linden reserves the right to add more land to the game under the Acts of Linden, which can suddenly decrease the value of land by increasing the supply, should the market get out of hand.
There also used to be a First Land program to entice new players. You could join with a premium account and get a small parcel of land without having to pay a monthly fee. This practice was shut down in early 2007, however. And just like in real life, there are abandoned parcels of land that are thrown back into the rotation and come up for auction.
There are also other factors at play in Second Life that mimic real life, such as obnoxious neighbors. Some residents have been accused of creating offensive parcels of land in an effort to lower the value of neighboring parcels and force sales. To try and limit disputes, Linden started allowing covenants in 2007. A covenant basically allows anyone owning a region of land (which is supposed to hold up to 100 residents) to set rules that have to be followed or else loss of land will occur. This keeps residents who rent or own within that region from defacing property.
Of course with any type of land rush, you’ll find real estate agents and Coldwell Banker was the first company to jump on the Second Life bandwagon. The company set up shop in the virtual world in 2007 and purchased a large amount of land tracts on the mainland of SL. Its plan was to divide up the land into 520 units, with half being for sale residential homes and the other half as rental property. Coldwell planned to market the homes(which buyers won’t be able to customize or change) well below the going rate on SL and also offer everything from helicopter tours to information on real life condos, houses and property.
Coldwell Banker was not only the first large real estate company to join SL, it was the first to actually put a real life property up for sale on Second Life. Complete with a three dimensional replica of a $3.1 million estate located on Mercer Island, Washington.
With the popularity of virtual home tours and the power of the Internet growing, coupled with the housing market slump of 2008, Second Life may become an escape and even an investment for more people.