Published: Sep 5, 2018 8:30 am ET
One investor is planning to build a virtual joy ride and selling tickets for virtual people to ride it
Virtual currencies are, for many, hard enough to fathom. So wrapping their heads around the concept of a virtual city that you can only enter via a digital-currency toll presents a problem by an order of magnitude.
However, those who can wrap their heads around the concept are banking profits of more than 500% by buying and selling virtual property in a place called Decentraland.
“Decentraland is a [blockchain-based] virtual city where you will be able to visit for many reasons including business, retail, entertainment and also, of course, play games,” said one U.K. resident who asked not to be named and described having begun investing in Decentraland property in February after trying his hand at trading altcoins, as cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin BTCUSD-0.26% are called.
In Decentraland, investors buy and sell plots of land, or LAND in Genesis City, the first city in Decentraland. “I got involved in December 2017, it was right before it took off,” said Ali Bohlaiqah, a chemical sourcing specialist in Saudi Arabia. “I put in $60,000 and have been buying and selling LAND since then. At the moment I currently own about 450 LANDs, which is worth over $350,000.”
Bohlaiqah said his investment represented about 75% of his savings.
It’s not just the property value, either. Bohlaiqah is leasing 80 of his 450 LANDs to investors who want to test the waters before buying. He isn’t currently charging rent to those who have property on his land because it is part of a marketing campaign to raise awareness of Decentraland, but in one year the rent-free agreements will end.
As for the U.K. investor, he wasn’t as bold, but his returns are more impressive. He began by purchasing a single plot of LAND, and, as he became more convinced, he kept buying. His initial investment of around $2,000 to $3,000 is now worth “a few tens of thousands,” he said.
And like Bohlaiqah, he has plans to earn a yield of his property. “I have a T. rex ride on my land. I am thinking about charging 5 MANA.”
MANA is the digital currency of Decentraland. One MANA is currently worth about 7 cents, and MANA’s market cap is $80 million, according to CoinMarketCap.
The virtual city was the brainchild of Argentine developers Esteban Ordano, Ariel Meilich, Manuel Araoz and Yemel Jardi, who came up with the idea in 2015. “It isn’t a question of if we should build Decentraland, but why we must,” said Jardi, who serves as a board member of Decentraland, in a blog post. “VR is about to become mainstream and users will demand a world shielded from the agenda of a central organization.”
Decentraland differs from other virtual cities like Second Life in that it is a centralized platform and is owned by its users, not a single entity, meaning it is not at the risk of the entity that owns and runs the platform.
Each section is 100 square meters, and the cheapest parcel goes for about $400 at the moment, according to Sam Clare, who was profiled in a recent BBC production on Decentraland. Clare told MarketWatch he paid $900 for his LAND and said he would be listing it for 10 million MANA.
The most expensive LAND for sale at the moment is going for 1 billion MANA, or about $80 million. Its proximity to the District, the center of the town, is what makes it so valuable. The property sold for just over $500 seven months ago, before being on-sold for a 340% profit two months later.
According to Ordano, the Decentraland economy is worth around $20 million, which he said he hopes to see grow to a billion dollars.
The platform is currently in alpha mode, meaning the only people who can access it are developers and LAND owners, the U.K. user said, so if you want a sneak peak you have to purchase your own plot of LAND. He currently spends up to four hours a week on his own content in Decentraland but expects the workload to pick up when it goes live. Just how much time that is, well, it might not be up to him.
“When the city goes live, then I expect to be there daily building content and helping it to grow. My wife will determine how much time that is.”