Minecraft: Real Estate In A Virtual World
Your kids are probably playing it. Microsoft recently paid $2.4 billion for it. It’s got over 100 million registered users. It’s the hugely popular video game called Minecraft. Everything in its world looks a little like Lego blocks. Players explore, mine and develop the game’s nearly unlimited, virtual land. Aside from being great fun, Minecraft is showing that wherever you have land and improvements — even when they’re simulated — you’ve got real estate and the potential for commerce that goes along with it.
Minecraft can be played as a multiplayer online game that provides a simulated world where players dig for resources, build towns, cities and homes, and sometimes fight each other over virtual turf. The multiplayer game runs on a server where potentially thousands of players are connected at the same time, mining, building and bumping into each other, with all the benefits and drawbacks that having neighbors can bring. As it turns out, the real-world rules we’re all familiar with for dealing with neighbors and property development are beginning to become part of Minecraft, as its software evolves and new capabilities are added to the gameplay.
Claiming Land: Beating Griefers
Exploring and building in a massive world are key features of the game, but these features don’t always attract players with the best intentions. The online game is subject to the “bad behavior” of players known as “griefers”, who enjoy ruining the game experience for other players. In Minecraft, this is done by “damaging” a player’s buildings and property using many of the game’s features in destructive ways.
What’s fascinating about the griefing phenomenon as it pertains to real estate is how game players and administrators have worked to prevent in-game grief by implementing basic real estate law and easements in the game code.
In the real estate world, title to land stems from initial claim on that land. Making land claims in Minecraft wasn’t possible in the early days of the game, but game administrators and programmers have added land claim capability, which restricts access to a player’s land and property to only those the player allows.
In the video following this link, you can hear a Minecraft server administrator (think of them as a host to the thousands of players) explain how, on his game servers, land claims as well as mineral rights are enforced.
From Land Claims To Commerce
In the Minecraft world, it turns out to be a short hop from preventing bad behavior to establishing property markets. The software add-ons to Minecraft that allow players to claim, subdivide and protect property and developments have themselves been extended to support rental and purchase property markets! From the software developer’s web page:
Grief Prevention – Real Estate aims to extend the Grief Prevention plugin by allowing users to be able to buy and sell claims or subclaims. Currently this is one of the biggest requests that are made for this plugin and the author has pointed out that they are concentrating on anti-griefing aspect of GP and that the API is there for anyone that wants to help extend the project!
Translation into plain English: The Minecraft game software is evolving to meet the needs of the community. There are a large and growing number of players who want real estate market features and if you write software, you can help develop features beyond what Minecraft already has, such as claims, subdivisions and rent.
Which means the future promises even more Minecraft features that will form a full in-game economy: taxes, capitalization, insurance, maintenance. These are the building blocks that make possible the familiar real-world markets, services and instruments built upon them: net leases, appraisals, even securitization or REITs.
If this seems far-fetched, notice that the Minecraft universe already has property listings.
Not bad for a “kid’s game”.