Everyone understands why land has value. It’s a piece of ground in a specific location. Its size, its location, its resources, and its demand dictate how much people are willing to pay for it. We all understand how land is useful too. You can use it to mine its resources, build on it, or simply rent it out to someone who’s willing to rent the land’s buildings or who wants to do something that will raise the value of the land.
All of this, most people can wrap their heads around. Virtual land, however, is much more difficult to conceptualize. After all, if it’s virtual, where is the land located? How is it practically useful? Isn’t its size, its resources, everything, simply a figment of someone’s imagination? An initial idea that’s been translated into code? How can something like this have value?
These are legitimate questions, particularly considering virtual land in decentralized games is becoming increasingly popular. Similar to land in real life, virtual land often ends up being quite expensive too, to the point where most people wonder why other people would make such an investment. And yet, there’s money to be made, as DGaming’s interview with Matty proved.
If you’re grappling with these questions, the trick is to think of the broader picture. The digital world is already so tightly linked with the real world. Imagine what would happen to the world economy if everyone’s Internet went down for a week. It would crumble! There would be global mayhem, instant chaos that would probably result in violence.
The more we integrate with the Internet, the more it becomes a genuine, real part of our worlds. Already, millions of people require only the Internet to earn money (yours truly included), going from simply being connected online to earning real greenbacks. People create architecture mockups that result in real buildings. They make CAD drawings that result in real machines. They look for Tinder matches that result in real love (arguably).
So we use the Internet to create something in real life. But it works the other way round as well. We are drawn into the digital and spend an increasing amount of our time there. Think about the number of hours a day we spend looking at a screen. It’s the vast majority of our time. In that sense, we live in the digital world already. And, in that sense too, we need worlds we can stay in. Worlds made up of virtual land.
Virtual Land in CryptoPioneers
CryptoPioneers is a “massively multiplayer economic strategy” DGame on the Ethereum blockchain that gives us one such virtual world. It’s called Cryptopeia and it’s split into six large continents: Bitcoinia, Etheria, Altera, Memosa, Koinia, and Pioneeria. Each continent is further split into islands, of which there will only ever be 200 in the game. Blockchain land mimics land on Earth: it’s scarce.
Cryptopioneer’s islands differ in size and biomes. There are six different biomes. In order of increasing rarity, these are: taiga, tropical, desert, polar, tundra, and savannah. Biomes influence the kind of resources you’ll find on islands and how effective different kinds of prospecting will be (more on that later). If an island is large enough, it might cross two or even three biomes. But most islands are one biome.
Each island is an ERC-721 token that you can buy. From what I’ve seen clicking on various islands in the world, they seem to cost between 0.1 to 1.2 ETH. There are many benefits to owning an island in CryptoPioneers. Each island is split into many different plots of land. You receive 50% of the initial sale price for every plot of land sold on your island, as well as a 15% commission for all the gathering and prospecting transactions on your plots of land.
For example, I spent 0.02 ETH (the minimum price) on three plots of land in a single island, which means that its owner received 0.03 ETH in return (around $6). It’s not big money, but the more popular the game and the more attractive your island, the more people will spend to buy a plot of land and the higher your return will be.
The gray islands in the above screenshot are the islands that haven’t been auctioned yet. You see, the developers of CryptoPioneers auction new islands on a frequent basis, which are then sold to the highest bidder. The initial price for new islands gradually increases with the sale of each island, favoring early buyers.
Of course, once you own an island, you can do with it as you please, which includes selling it off to another player in the game’s marketplace. Discord is a good place to find potential island sellers. However, while you might make a nice return on your initial island investment, the game is still at a stage where you’ll probably make an even bigger return if you hold on to your island and develop it instead.
Prospecting An Island
Eventually, all 200 islands in Cryptopeia will be sold and buying a whole island will require a large, upfront investment. Thankfully, you don’t need an island to play CryptoPioneers. You can become a prospector instead: someone who owns at least one plot of land and who exploits the island’s resources and searches for rare artifacts.
Plots of land are ERC-721 tokens too (just like islands). Each plot has a terrain type (e.g. grass, wood, forest) that will affect the type of building you can build on it, the type of resource you’ll find, and how likely you’ll find those resources as well. Plots cost a minimum of 0.02 ETH and a maximum of 0.05 ETH. Compared to other DGames, buying a plot of land in CryptoPioneers isn’t expensive at all.
The maximum price is nice, although it caps the amount of money people will be willing to spend on an island. If your island consists of 100 plots that can go for 0.05 ETH max, and you receive 50% of that, you won’t be willing to spend all that much over 2.5 ETH. But I prefer to have a maximum price for land over a game where there’s no maximum price and where a plot of land costs an arm and a leg.
Once you have a plot of land, it’ll automatically gather some resources. Resources are ERC-20 tokens, each with a total supply that determines the resource’s scarcity. The most useful and most abundant resources are wood and stone. You can collect those resources for 0.005 ETH or five times the resource for 0.025 ETH, which you can do once every 24 hours. For example, I have one plot of land with some trees on it and I can collect either 2.2 fir timber for 0.005 ETH or 11 timber for 0.025 ETH.
If your plot of land doesn’t have any particular type of resource, you can use it to construct a building on it. Buildings help extract known resources more efficiently and they give you access to resource classes that you otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Buildings are categorized in Ages, from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age and beyond. The more advanced the Age, the more the building will cost. The minimum cost for a building is 0.02 ETH and 8 pine timber, which I thought was fairly expensive, given that most of the plots only cost 0.02 ETH.
Initially, it’s unlikely you’ll have the right resources to construct a building. In that case, you’ll want to turn to the marketplace, where players put their resources up for sale. You’ll want to browse the marketplace thoroughly to find the best deal, as some sellers price their resources very expensively.
The more you mine and build on your plots of land, the more renown you’ll earn. You can stake your renown to participate in the global shared fund to earn regular ETH. Currently, this fund stands at 0.018095. I couldn’t find out what contributes to the fund, but I can imagine it’s the sale of islands, plots of land, and prospecting transactions.
Apart from collecting resources and selling them on the marketplace, you can also search for artifacts. These are ERC-721 token that are scattered around Cryptopeia and that give you access to technology that no one else can build. You can also play for achievements, which are also ERC-721 tokens that come with a generation number to indicate how many other players attained that specific achievement. As such, being the first to do something will generate quite a valuable ERC-721 token that you can sell for some good money.
Additionally, islands can have founder monuments and capital monuments. A founder monument is located on the first island that was released for sale on a continent. As it happens, entirely by accident, the plots of land I bought were on an island with a founder monument. In fact, there was a nice collection of buildings around the monument.
A capital monument is located on the capital island of a continent. Additionally, the owners of a capital island have double the share in CryptoPioneers’ continent wealth fund, which is another fund of ETH that’s distributed to island owners as per the size of your island on a continent. The larger your island, the bigger your share.
CryptoPioneers Needs Momentum
You can tell that CryptoPioneers is a relatively new DGame. Firstly, there are still many islands in the world that need to be sold. Secondly, the prices for those islands and for plots of land isn’t incredibly high. You can go a long way with less than $100. If you’re familiar with the prices of virtual land, then you’ll know that that’s not a lot of money for land.
The game is reasonably built out already and the developers are active on Discord and Twitter. In fact, I encourage you to join their Discord channel, as it gives you access to a big Google spreadsheet with information of the effect of biomes, type of industry, and terrain on the production of resources, as well as a YouTube channel that explains the game in short videos.
However, judging from the Discord activity and the little ETH in the game’s funds, it seems like CryptoPioneers is still looking for that critical mass of players that will drive up prices and create a vibrant world. In a way, that’s an opportunity: now’s the time to scoop up cheap islands and cheap land. But it’s a risk as well: there’s a chance it never reaches critical mass and you won’t be able to sell the islands and the land you bought.
During this stage in a game’s development, developers can lower the investment risk for new players by updating them regularly about what’s coming to the game. That’s what I’d like to see from CryptoPioneers: a roadmap! What’s coming next? What are CryptoPioneer’s plans in terms of marketing? Generally, what plans do the developers have to reach that critical mass of players to fuel Cryptopeia’s economy?
Virtual land in virtual worlds in blockchain games is still a relatively new phenomenon. Blockchain land games available today have a first-mover advantage. But they won’t have that advantage for very long. They quickly need to gather a critical mass of players before newer, perhaps better-developed land games are released. That’s where CryptoPioneers is at. It’s one of the few land DGames available today, but it needs more players. If you’re looking for cheap (is)lands and you don’t mind investment risk, go check it out!