Let’s first take the word ‘virtual’. It means ‘almost like’. Almost like but not really there, that is the scary part of it. Virtual real estate (VRE) is simulated that is why you have to invest in a “sim” to create the estate you want. Or, you can invest to buy land at an auction or from another resident. The point here again, it is what you want and not that others would want. This is just a game where you can use play money or real money. Okay, so you start off playing with virtual money. You become good at it and you see your play money grow by leaps and bounds. Like many would think, if this were real money, you would be rich by now. When we become good at something, we become confident. That confidence now will lead to taking the risk of investing real money in the game. The game offers you options to improve a property and you are quite good at timing when or when not to make the improvements. Just like the real thing! Your imaginations run wild with the thought of having more ‘properties’ to sell.
As of this writing, an article at MSN says current users of virtual real estate is somewhere in the vicinity of 7.2 million. It also states that two well known games have hit the $1 billion mark. We can do some math on this by dividing $1 billion by 7.2 million users. The result is on the average, $138.88 investment per user. Now, how many millionaires are there in this virtual real estate? There was no mention of who they are but there was mention of about 4 or 5 of them making good. In efforts to find a list of millionaires in virtual real estate investment, there was none. In an article discussion, there was mention that the highest ‘cash-out’ at Second Life was for $1.7 million and the top ten also cash-out a million or more each. The talk is having 700 sims with a yearly bill to Linden Lab to the tune of $1,680,000.00, for the $1.7 million cash out. If the $1.7M is net amount then that’s a little over 50% profit. But if it is a gross amount, then profit would only be $20,000.00! I believe the latter is the accurate one because a clarification blog was posted by the interviewee stating that “there were nearly 60K accounts that are making enough money in Second Life to cover their costs”.
One shocking truth about virtual real estate is that accurate news and reporting is not available even with direct interviews with the virtual real estate investors! How come? A video recording of a couple that had gone into virtual real estate on the last quarter of 2009 admit that what they make is still far off the $72,000 annual income of the male partner who was making when he was employed. Going back, it is shocking enough, if not stupid at all, to be investing $1.680M a year, only to realize $20,000.00 out of it. Also, taking for granted that the figures given on those article are good enough, 60,000 accounts making enough is not even one (1%) percent of the 7.20 million users! This simple math needs to be done because true-to-life real investors should realize this.
Virtual real estate works on the minds of many who shun reality. Though it is mentioned that the top ten of Second Life includes mostly true-to-life real estate investors, their success would not be the same as other real estate investors like them, with the rest of the 7.190M users. Another shocking thought in virtual real estate is if their servers start having glitches, crashing or get hacked. We all know what happens to data saved when that happens. There may be back-up files but not completely reliable. Also, creators of VREs could deploy a big number of servers that could make land prices go crashing down. There are also zoning problems and neighbor agreement issues that could go bad. The final shock here is, when everything goes wrong and all VRE and money dissipates in thin air. You don’t have any physical ownership, any deed, any laws and government to protect your investment. In real life, the land is there and can not be lost in any manner.