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Become a Virtual Real Estate Tycoon - New York Sun

Oct. 18, 2007
Reporter: A. Balla, New York Sun
Tags: Virtual Real Estate, Virtual World, Virtual Property

Becoming a Virtual Real Estate Tycoon is easy in the Weblo Virtual World. Here, you can own virtual property, any virtual city, any virtual state and more. Virtual World popularity is growing with Virtual Real Estate Tycoons owning all kinds of virtual property and virtual real estate.

Where $9 Makes Buyers Real Estate Tycoons

Growing up in Astoria, Eric Outcalt had a view that included the General Motors Building, the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, and the Williamsburg Bridge. Now, he owns them.

"I bought them all," he said. "Three bucks each." Don't count the 47-year-old Mr. Outcalt, who lives on Long Island and is a finance director at a car dealership, among the city's real estate tycoons: He
purchased these properties through, a virtual universe where copies of real world assets are traded for real money.

For those familiar with the idea of such Internet domains, Weblo may seem similar to Second Life, which opened in 2003 and boasts 10 million users operating in a multimillion-dollar virtual economy.
Weblo's cofounder and chief executive, Rocky Mirza, is adamant that his site is different because Weblo is a copy of the real world, whereas users build the Second Life world themselves.

"Everything you buy here already exists in the real world," he said.
Described as "Monopoly on steroids," Weblo has accumulated about 60,000 users since its launch in December 2006. Players such as Mr. Outcalt make money by having other players click on the advertisements that are featured on their property pages, and by selling their assets for a profit. The Web site receives 5% of each sales transaction and makes a profit through membership fees and money stemming from the initial sales of copy assets. The price of a copy property is based on factors including the Internet usage rate in the area the real asset is located, and the number of Weblo users viewing the virtual asset page.

The company's founders are betting Weblo will become the next real estate gold rush, albeit only virtually. The players, about half of whom are Americans and a third ages 18 to 22, will be attracted by both the desire to make money and the emotional attachments to places and buildings, the founders said.

"People are obviously buying a lot of properties for sentimental reasons," Mr. Mirza said. "A lot of people are buying their small towns."

One player paid $800 to own Lincoln, Neb., nearly double what someone else paid for New York City. With the Empire State Building valued at $250, bargains such as these haven't been seen since the Dutch "bought" Manhattan for about $24 400 years ago.

The most expensive items so far are the country of England, which sold for $60,000, and the state of California, which sold for $53,000; New York State was sold for $19,354.

While every major city has been sold, and many resold, Mr. Mirza said this is only the beginning. "The world is big; there is still a lot left to sell," he said.

Mr. Outcalt, who bought New York's City Hall because he interned there while going to high school, has spent about $30 in his six months of using Weblo. His properties are now valued at $70, he said.

"It's a lot of fun, and it gives you a little bit of a God complex," he said.