This is a picture of Amethera Treasure Island.

It’s not real. It’s a digital creation that exists in a virtual online world called Entropia.

According to this article in Forbes, it sold a few years back for a paltry $26,500 US dollars. The article explains;

“That’s the amount David Storey, a 27-year-old graduate student living in Sydney, Australia, paid for a virtual island, the “Most valuable object that is virtual,” according to Guinness World Records.”

But wait.

Soon after, Jon “Neverdie” Jacob purchased Club Neverdie, an asteroid space resort, for $100,000, stealing the Guinness World Record for “Most expensive virtual property” from Storey with the click of a mouse. He apparently mortgaged his real house to snag the asteroid, which sports a cool nightclub, a sports stadium and a full out shopping mall.

Not to be outdone, Buzz “Erik” Lightyear, (also an Entropian entrepreneur), purchased Crystal Palace Space Station in an auction for $330,000 last December.


I’m a geek and all, but isn’t this a bit… bizarre?

The Forbes article is fascinating. On a purely economic scale, David the dude is making a hundred thousand smackers a month as people pay to send their virtual hunters onto the island to go virtual hunting. The article gets really crunchy near the tail end though:

“…For all the buzz around virtual goods, you might still wonder why people are willing to pay for things that don’t really exist. Susan Wu, founder of social games developer Ohai, says her game’s players use virtual goods as a form of communication and as decorations on their sites. Virtual goods can also help them win games. “It’s about relationship building, and things like rank and status,” Wu says. Castronova had perhaps the simplest explanation. “Why do people buy diamond earrings?” he says. “They are something that make you feel good.”

Ok, yeah.

But why would people buy something that doesn’t exist?

Maybe the island does exist, in a sense—given an ethereal kind of shape by the shifting shadows of ego and desire and longing.

Sure, $300,000 is a bit steep for an imaginary real estate, but why did I go to see Avatar three times? That set me back sixteen bucks a pop (though my buddy paid for my third time out). The beautiful world of Pandora doesn’t exist apart from a flickering light-show of pixels and sounds on the screen.

Well, that’s not entirely true. It now exists in my brain, my memories, my increasingly vivid imagination, and my desires and longings.

But the real question isn’t whether said island exists or not. It’s whether it matters.

So an entrepreneur spent a bucketload of cash on a virtual island, or a virtual necklace for a virtual girlfriend. A bit weird, true.


We spend bucketloads of cash on things that don’t matter every single day without batting an eye, things that seem to matter because they’re framed ethereally by the shifting shadows of ego and desire and longing.

Seriously—what’s the real world difference in eternity between things that don’t exist and things that don’t matter? In ten thousand years, they’ll be one and the same thing.

And not just virtually.


What do you think? How do you draw the line between what matters and what doesn’t?