The Explosion of the “Buy a Virtual Piece of Earth” Game Market: Caveat Emptor!

In the past, from time to time on this blog, I have written about virtual world apps which consisted of arbitrarily dissecting the Earth into sections, as an augmented reality overlay, and then selling the rights to these virtual plots of land. In each case, the company involved makes vague promises that the buyers-in will make some sort of profit (usually by selling said lands for more than what was paid for them, or perhaps building stores or selling advertising on them at some future point). Among the projects I have blogged about in the past, which fall into this category, are Infiniverse, Mossland, SuperWorld, and Worldopoly.

(A variation on the theme is selling virtual plots of land on a made-up-from-scratch planet, the prime example of which was the ill-fated MATERIA ONE/Staramba Spaces project, of which you can read the whole lamentable saga here.)

Well, over the past three days, attracted by no small amount of messy YouTube drama regarding yet another one of these projects, I discovered that the number of these buy-a-piece-of-Earth apps has multiplied! In the past 72 hours I learned about a number of projects which I had never heard of before:

Here’s the requisite glitzy promo video for Earth2:

It was Earth2 that first led me down this rabbit hole, where a number of YouTubers are engaged in vociferous verbal battle with each other regarding this project, in which some players have invested tens and even thousands of dollars (converted into something called E-dollars, Earth2’s in-game currency), in order to buy the rights to virtual tiles corresponding to real-world locations.

The best overall summary of how Earth2 works is the following 50-minute video by a British fellow named Josh Strife Hayes:

In it, he does a masterful job of explaining that Earth2 is engineered in such a way that the company running it will never lose money. (He also briefly mentions Decentraland, as an example of a virtual world that actually already has visitable destinations with games and such, as opposed to promises of future development, which may or may not come true.)

Earth2 is being marketed in three phases, of which Phase 1 is the sale of virtual land, and Phase 2 is the creation of a 1:1 virtual version of the entire Earth, similar to the Matrix or Ready Player One. A game developer released the following 6-minute YouTube video explaining why this Phase 2 claim doesn’t pass the sniff test:

Other critics of Earth2, such as Callum Upton, have been nothing short of absolutely scathing in their dissection of the project, comparing it to the notorious Bitconnect scandal:

Given that most of the projects I have written about to date have failed to arouse very much interest outside the hothouse bubble of crypto greed (and I should be very clear that, as far as I can tell, there is currently no crypto or blockchain in Earth2), the amount of attacking and counter-attacking relating to Earth2 is quite noteworthy! Most projects would kill for this level of attention… 😉

Now comes my standard warning for any and all such projects: please do EVERY. SINGLE. SCRAP. of your homework before investing a penny in them! Read everything on the website, including the white paper, if any. Check secondary sources of info—including Discord servers and social media— for opinions, both pro and con, before you invest. Caveat emptor!

UPDATE 9:58 p.m.: A commenter on the Twitter post of this blogpost pointed me to the Build the Earth project, where thousands of people are busily at work to create a 1:1 version of Earth in Minecraft!

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