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Alien Worlds Prepares for Land Sale as Digital Scarcity Goes Meta

by Stephen Young

December 1, 2020

Ever since Satoshi Nakamoto created a blockchain-based digital currency with an artificially fixed supply of 21 million coins, debates over digital scarcity have raged. While it is true that that Bitcoin’s maximum supply is capped, there is nothing to prevent someone from cloning the entire codebase and creating their own cryptocurrency with its own arbitrary supply, as many have done. Starting with Litecoin, a slew of Bitcoin imitators have sprung up, in the process prompting debate over what constitutes scarce in an era of instant digital replicability.

The question of artificial scarcity, and the price people are willing to pay for digital collectibles, will come into sharp focus next week when Alien Worlds holds its land sale. For anyone who participated in Decentraland’s second land sale, the format should be familiar: a Dutch auction in which prices start high and then gradually drop, until all parcels have been snapped up. But why should anyone wish to fork out almost 0.75 ETH for a piece of virtual land they cannot touch or physically inhabit? To answer that calls for delving down the rabbit hole of the metaverse, a virtual world where anything is possible and adventure lurks inside every NFT.

The Great Digital Land Grab

If Decentraland started the craze for virtual parcels of land, each represented as a non-fungible token (NFT), Alien Worlds has taken that model and gone interstellar with it. Ostensibly, Alien Worlds is a strategy game replete with the usual missions that such a sprawling quest entails: exploring, mining, invading, and battling. What makes Alien Worlds interesting though, over and above its gaming characteristics, is that there is a real economy attached, in which the price of success or failure has a tangible price, denominated in Trilium, the ERC20 token that controls the Alien Worlds metaverse.

With cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, miners are the entities tasked with solving mathematical puzzles in order to provide Proof of Work to the network, in return for a share of new coins minted. Alien Worlds takes that concept and gamifies it, obliging players to choose their planets, regions, and tools wisely in order to maximize their Trilium earnings.

Each of the game’s unique assets, be it a character, weapon, or plot of land, is represented as an NFT. Players are thus compelled to utilize their available assets in the most efficient manner, because if they don’t, others will, stealing the lion’s share of the spoils.

On December 4, 3,000 land packs will be auctioned live; preorders are available now, before the live auction commences on Friday. Plots are distributed across the game’s six planets, instigating an almighty land grab as players clamor to acquire the limited edition items.

What to Do With a Digital Plot of Land?

Our grandparents owned smallholdings of land, their grandparents owned hectares of untamed wilderness, and our parents owned bricks-and-mortar if they were lucky. Many of our generation will never have the opportunity to own property, as rising prices have placed real estate beyond the reach of ordinary workers. (For reference, in the 1930s, an average US home cost three years’ wages.) Instead, the digital generation may have to content themselves with owning and trading virtual land. It may not be capable of replacing real estate – we still need a place to rest our heads after all – but it can be monetized, utilized, and traded in much the same way.

Alien Worlds landowners receive a share of all Trilium mined on their property, and even have the ability to adjust the percentage they receive as commission. From Mushroom Forest to Geothermal Springs, land buyers don’t know quite what they’re going to receive until they open their NFT pack, giving each purchase an element of mystery akin to opening a football sticker pack as a child.

As early adopters of Decentraland discovered, owning digital land can be extremely lucrative; many of those who got in early flipped their parcels for profits of 10x or more. While Alien Worlds land can be freely traded, the smart play may be to hold onto it, and accrue Trilium rewards by charging others to mine it. First though, aspiring landowners have got to get their hands on the digital real estate. Demand is expected to be high, prompting a bidding frenzy as the Dutch auction counts down and the final parcels are snapped up. Then, the metaverse can begin in earnest, ushering in a new era for digital scarcity.