Entropia Universe is a massive multiplayer online virtual universe designed by the Swedish software company MindArk, based in Gothenburg. Entropia uses a micropayment business model, in which players may buy in-game currency (PED - Project Entropia Dollars) with real money that can be redeemed back into real world funds at a fixed exchange rate. This means that virtual items acquired within Entropia Universe have a real cash value, and a participant may, at any time, initiate a withdrawal of their accumulated PEDs back into real world currencies according to the fixed exchange rate, minus transaction fees, the minimum amount for a withdrawal is 1000 PED. As a result, revenue of the business is largely generated from activities within the virtual universe. As of 2009[update], the revenue model has proven to be sustainable and profitable.
The Entropia Universe is a direct continuation of Project Entropia, with MindArk reporting a 2006 in-game turnover of over 3.6 Billion PED ($360 Million USD). Strategic partnerships with media companies and financial institutions combined with the addition of new or enhanced developer tools in 2008 are expected to allow for the construction of new planets, to exist within the financial structure of Entropia Universe, for third party content providers to develop and market independently.
The Entropia online community claims to have over 810,000 registered participants from over 220 countries and dependent territories.
The Entropia Universe entered the Guinness World Records Book in both 2004 and 2008 for the most expensive virtual world objects ever sold, and in 2010, a virtual space station, a popular destination, sold for $330,000.
Development of Entropia Universe (formerly Project Entropia) was started in Sweden in 1995 by Jan Welter Timkrans and a group of colleagues. During its initial testing phase in 2002 the offices of MindArk were raided by court officials following a complaint by Microsoft that MindArk was using unlicensed software. MindArk has stated that this may have been an attempt by Microsoft to derail the game's development because of its threat to their game Asheron's Call. The game was launched commercially at the start of 2003.
On 8 May 2007, MindArk announced the results of the world's first virtual world Banking License auction. After months of active bidding, the five licenses sold for a total of $404,000 USD to a mix of real world banks, Entropia participants, and entrepreneurs, all seeking to invest in the virtual realm. Uniquely, the banks (Owners) have integrated services within the mechanics of Entropia Universe and do not function merely as virtual advertising spots. Four of the bank buildings and their functionality were introduced into Entropia Universe on 9 October 2007, with the fifth being postponed until Version Update 9.1 on 11 December 2007.
On 30 May 2007, it was announced that Entropia Universe had been chosen by the online entertainment company Cyber Recreation Development Corp. (CRD) to create a cash-based virtual economy for China, creating the largest virtual world ever. The deal brought an outside virtual world into China for the first time. (Entropia Universe was chosen over several other proposals, including one by Second Life.) The project permits up to 7 million concurrent users logged into the virtual universe, with an overall aim to attract some 150 million users from all over the world. It was estimated that the project would generate 10,000 qualified job opportunities in China. As of 2009[update] a number of the world's largest corporations within media, film, music and gaming are in negotiations to purchase their own Entropia Universe planets. MindArk's CEO said "the server structure running the Entropia Universe will be one of the fastest on Earth."
On 25 July 2007, MindArk announced that they had signed a license agreement to use the high-tech game engine CryEngine 2, from German developer Crytek. The transition to a platform built around this new technology was expected to be finished by mid-2008, but was officially released with Update 10 on August 17, 2009.
On 4 December 2007, MindArk PE announced its intention to go public, to pursue growth. MindArk appointed Credit Suisse to help the company evaluate its strategic alternatives including planning for the IPO.
On 27 August 2009 an event called Second Golden Age (SGA) was started, running until the end of the year, despite the platform still being in a beta phase with yet unresolved issues.
On 9 September 2009, Marco Behrmann (FPC CEO) gave an announcement about a roadmap "some time after" VU 10.2  and about a new system to introduce new players (coming in spring) as being one of top priorities. Introduction will provide a backstory and first steps to the user interface; most likely, it will be added to the existing mentoring system.
The backstory of Entropia Universe is that of a distant science-fiction future. The specific settings vary a little bit on each planet. On Planet Calypso participants assume the roles of colonists who must develop the untamed planet of Calypso and explore its two continents, Eudoria and Amethera. Populated with fierce and dangerous creatures, the perilous wilderness on Calypso is also rich in minerals and ore, both of which can potentially be a source of income for would-be colonists.
There are two space stations in orbit over Calypso - CND & CP (Club NEVERDIE & Crystal Palace). In order to travel to them, players either need to own a hangar which contains a working spaceship, or alternatively, players can pay other participants acting as pilots to fly them there. As of 2009[update] all pilot services are disabled, so temporary teleports to and from the space stations are being provided for a fee of 25 PED.
The outposts, cities, and auction posts on the planet serve as trading hubs where virtual items such as tools, weapons, and minerals are bought and sold by colonists. The wide range of professions available to colonists makes the accumulation of skills and resources a lively business. The cities also serve as social and cultural connection points for the colonist community. Some colonists on a rare occasion participate in the project only socially without engaging in business, such as beggars and priests of Lootius.
Cost to participate
The service can be downloaded and played for free from VU 10.1, following an account registration procedure. However, when someone new first starts playing they are not given any items or clothing beyond a damaged orange jumpsuit, a pair of grey shoes and a tool for gathering vibrant sweat from creatures. As such, although one is able to participate for free, more involved gameplay is difficult without depositing funds. Players with little or no money are initially limited to the following actions:
- Using the service as a 3-D virtual chat room or exploring the virtual universe.
- Using an in-game process called "Sweating" or "Sweat Gathering" to extract bottles of "Vibrant Sweat," which can then be sold to other players for PED or changed to items. The 2010.06.03 VU release may introduce 2 new types of "sweat".
- Collecting "fruit", "dung", and 6 sorts of precious rare stones which can be sold to other players to raise funds.
- Performing numerous "jobs" for other players – for example, acting as a trader, or buying pre-defined amount of crafting materials at specified rate for crafters.
- Performing several missions (quests) that can be completed without any in-game equipment or money.
- Trickery: cheating, and stealing, either from the ground or through trade.
- Begging, which is largely frowned upon.
Players may purchase items needed to kill Entropia's tougher creatures—which are often likely to yield a higher number of valuable items than their weaker kin—or they can participate in the "Mining" and "Crafting / Manufacturing" professions, which can produce saleable items to fund further gameplay. However, an element of risk is involved in all of these activities, and the expected payback is usually less than the funds required to initially partake in them.
Many players attempt trading as a fun and seemingly attractive method for acquiring PEDs, but has typically low margins. One exception to this is trading so-called "uber" items, which are very rare and highly efficient versions of normal devices. Such items can retail in-game for the equivalent of thousands of US dollars.
Other ways of earning PEDs have included: organizing ticketed events within Entropia, operating a player-owned shop (such as a beauty salon), managing a shopping mall for its taxes, piloting others into space, virtual real estate agency, providing a clothes/furniture coloring/texturising service, or promoting those enterprises.
Before beginning the game, the player's character model can be manipulated in a variety of ways. The model's skin, eye and hair colour can be selected in addition to altering physical dimensions of the body and facial features. After initial creation further physical modifications can only be achieved through the services of other users acting as hairdressers or plastic surgeons, for example.
The cultural city of 'New Oxford' within Entropia Universe offers participants the opportunity to purchase real world items, such as contemporary art and clothing.
Some of the companies that have partnerships to sell real world items within the Entropia Universe include 'Vexed Generation Clothing Ltd' of London, England, '21st Century Fine Art' which has its real world offices in New York, USA. 21st Century Fine Art have also opened a gallery in the heart of 'New Oxford' within the Entropia Universe. Also working example of such collaboration is 'Entropia Outfitters'.
Significant events and virtual property sales
On 14 December 2004, the game creators MindArk announced the conclusion of the first "Treasure Island Sale". This was a virtual island put up for auction. The winning bidder, an avatar named Zachurm "Deathifier" Emegen, paid 265,000 PED (US$26,500) for the island. At the time this was the highest price ever paid for a virtual item. According to the press release, it is "a large island off a newly discovered continent surrounded by deep creature infested waters. The island boasts beautiful beaches ripe for developing beachfront property, an old volcano with rumors of fierce creatures within, the outback is overrun with mutants, and an area with a high concentration of robotic miners guarded by heavily armed assault robots indicates interesting mining opportunities."
On 24 October 2005, a virtual 'Asteroid Space Resort' was bought by Jon "Neverdie" Jacobs for a sum of 1,000,000 PED (US$100,000), greatly surpassing the sale of Treasure Island. Jon Jacobs is also the writer and producer of a song played within the Entropia Universe called "Gamer Chick". The Asteroid was named Club NEVERDIE after Jacobs's own in game Avatar and has made headlines around the world for the high price of the purchase and his own ambitious plans to turn the resort into a venue for "Live Entertainment in Virtual Reality".
On 9 November 2005, the BBC reported that "Deathifier" had recouped his investment in under a year. He made money by selling virtual homes as well as taxing other gamers to hunt or mine on the island. "The money made to date is only a taste of what can be achieved with my virtual island purchase," said Deathifier.
On 2 May 2006, MindArk announced the introduction of an ATM card enabling players to withdraw the real-world currency equivalent of their PED funds directly from any real-world Versatel ATM machines. As reported on the BBC newsfeed users could sell virtual items online and then go purchase a dinner for themselves down the street in real life with this cash card technology. It was stated that $165 million had "passed through the game" in 2005 and that this figure was expected to double in 2006.
On 7 August 2006, Entropia Universe announced the final sale prices from its July 2006 virtual real estate public auction totalling over US$200,000. The auction began on 5 July 2006 with an opening release of six new land areas full of hunting and mineral rights and closed late July with a total of thirteen properties sold. The various virtual land masses including remote snow covered mountains, riverfront estates, vast rainforests and jungles, lake homes and more sold for a combined US$213,784.00.
Jon Jacobs, the gamer who runs Club NEVERDIE, announced profits of $100,000 USD in August, 2006. Club NEVERDIE is a virtual resort that was established in December 2005. The revenue was generated from hunting and mining taxes, and sales of virtual apartments and shops. In July, Jacobs had purchased a virtual item (a "Unique Green Atrox Queen Egg") for $10,000 through auction.
Mike Everest, a home-schooled high school senior from Durango, Colorado, and his mother earned $35,000 in 2006 by constructing and selling weapons in Entropia. Of this, $12,000 will be used as college funds for his siblings. Everest spent an average of three hours per day playing the game and intended to continue playing to fund his own college education.
On 17 October 2006, MindArk announced that Entropia Universe had achieved the milestone of over 500,000 registered users. "The growth of Entropia Universe is an enormous achievement for us and the members," said Jan Welter, CEO of MindArk, developer of Entropia Universe. "As the world of video games evolves to become more than just a means of two-dimensional entertainment, we are seeing a demand for the integration of real-world features in virtual environments. Individuals are joining the Entropia Universe community to interact, meet new people, learn new ideas, reach entrepreneurial aspirations, create societies and even foster new relationships in everyday reality."
On 8 May 2007, MindArk announced the results of the world's first virtual Banking license auction. These two-year exclusive licenses aim to integrate real world banking systems into Entropia Universe. The virtual Entropia Universe banks will work similarly to real world banks, or pawn shops. Initially, they will be provided with secure systems enabling them to lend money to participants and collect interest, design and name their own virtual bank building(s), and make their own personnel available through avatars. Each winner must add a further US$100,000 as working capital. MindArk CIO Marco Behrmann said, "The five banks will have integrated services within the mechanics of Entropia Universe and will not just be virtual advertising spots." After months of bidding the five licenses sold for a total of US$404,000, to:
- Avatar “Janus JD D'Arcwire”, representing Wirecard Bank AG, who paid US$59,060.
- Russian Internet Payment Provider MONETA.ru, with avatar “Yuri iNTellect” who paid US$99,900.
- Entropia celebrity “Jon NEVERDIE Jacobs”, who paid US$90,000.
- Second Life virtual celebrity and entrepreneur Anshe Chung, who paid US$60,000.
- Avatar "Jolana Kitty Brice", an Entropia Universe participant and entrepreneur who paid US$95,000.
On 8 December 2009, the sale of the Crystal Palace Space Station was announced. A public auction held from December 14, 2009 through December 28, 2009 determined the new owner. It was won by Buzz Erik Lightyear who paid 3.3 million PED, or US$330,000 for it.
On 17 May 2010 Neverdie announced that after almost 5 years his asteroid (CND) is for sale again. It's starting bid of 5 million PED ($500,000) would break its own record as the most expensive virtual item. The sale is to fund Neverdie's other Entropia businesses; he says CND is profitable, with approximate 2010 gross tax receipts of 160,000 PED per month.
On 15 Jun 2010 parent company MindArk AB released its 2009 annual report. They reported a cash flow of -18.6 Million SEK (-$2.4M). In the report it states that the real life bank they were planning to start is on hold due to a lack of funds. MindArk also says they have a signed letter of intent to sell their original virtual planet, Planet Calypso, for a price of $6,000,000 USD to an unnamed company.
- Planet Calypso Planet Calypso official web site Retrieved 27 January 2010.
- Marketwire.com (May 8, 2007),"Virtual world Entropia Universe issues first ever virtual banking licenses for $400,000". Retrieved through web archive on 2007-11-18.
- "Features". Entropiauniverse.com. Retrieved on 2007-11-18.
- Marketwire.com (September 18, 2007), Entropia Universe enters 2008 Guinness World Records Book for "most expensive virtual world object". Retrieved on 2009-08-18.
- Man buys virtual space station for 330k real dollars. Retrieved on 2010-06-23
- Noah Shachtman (June 28, 2002), "Pirate cops raid MS gaming foe" Wired.com. Retrieved on 2007-11-18.
- Marketwire.com (March 18, 2009), Virtual World Developer MindArk Granted Real World Banking License. Retrieved on 2009-08-18.
- "Content list VU 9.0" Retrieved on 2007-11-18.
- [ftp://ftp.mindark.se/pr/Entropia_Universe_Enters_China.pdf ENTROPIA UNIVERSE ENTERS CHINA TO CREATE THE LARGEST VIRTUAL WORLD EVER]. Retrieved on 2010-05-18
- Investor Relations Mindark Intends to Go Public.
- Announcement of EU roadmap.
- Missions suitable for beginners. Retrieved on 2010-05-28
- Entropia Outfitters.
- BBC News Article: "Gamer buys $26,500 virtual land."
- Gamer buys virtual space station. BBC News (25 October 2005). Retrieved on 3 January 2010
- Virtual property market booming. BBC News (9 November 2005). Retrieved on 3 January 2010
- Cash card taps virtual game funds. BBC News (2 May 2006). Retrieved on 3 January 2010
- Press Release. MarketWire.
- SOURCE: Club NEVERDIE (August 21, 2006). Champion Gamer NEVERDIE Rakes in $100,000 USD in Virtual Reality. marketwire. Retrieved on 2009-03-17
- SOURCE: Reality Port (Jul 20, 2006). Virtual Egg Sells for $10,000 USD. marketwire. Retrieved on 2009-03-17
- Neha Tiwari (October 10, 2006). Teen pays siblings' college fees by selling virtual weapons. cnet News. Retrieved on 2009-03-17
- 500k Users Press Release. gamedaily.com.
- NEVERDIE Bank Interview (2007-05-04). Retrieved on 2010-05-21 “Some may say they are like pawn shops, but in Entropia they are banks. There is no other way to get money forwarded or loaned securely.”
- Chloe Albanesius (2007-05-09). Tycoons Buy In to New Virtual Banks. Retrieved on 2010-05-21
- VIRTUAL WORLD ENTROPIA UNIVERSE ISSUE FIRST EVER VIRTUAL BANKING LICENSES FOR $400,000 MindArk Announces the Five Winners of the World’s First Virtual Banking Licenses; Real World Banks and Celebrities Among the Buyers (2007-05-08). Retrieved on 2010-05-21
- Fox News Article.
- Wirecard Bank AG Press Release.
- C. Albanesius (2007-05-25). Wirecard Explains How Virtual Banking Will Work. Retrieved on 2010-05-21
- SOURCE: Planet Calypso (Dec 8, 2009). PR: Planet Calypso Announces Online Auction To Acquire Massive Virtual Space Station - UPDATED.
- ANP (Dec 30, 2009). Recordbedrag betaald voor virtueel ruimtestation.
- entropiaplanets.com (Dec 28, 2009). Crystal Palace - And the winner is....
- Asteroid 4 Sale! (2010-05-17). Retrieved on 2010-05-21
- Asteroid Auction Details (2010-05-19). Retrieved on 2010-05-21
- Entropia Universe Portal – Official website.
- Planet Calypso – Official website for Planet Calypso.
- Planet Rocktropia – Official website for Planet Rocktropia
- Entropia Planets - Entropia Universe forum, information news and tools