PICTURES

Latest hot property launch in town is a "virtual" steal in the game Planet Arkadia

Arkadia Studios chief executive David Dobson (left), 38, and chairman Peter Dobson, 50. -- ST FILE PHOTO: TEE ZHUO
Arkadia Studios chief executive David Dobson (left), 38, and chairman Peter Dobson, 50. -- ST FILE PHOTO: TEE ZHUO
A screen shot of Planet Arkadia, where players can purchase property of underground caverns. -- PHOTO: ARKADIA
A screen shot of Planet Arkadia, where players can purchase property of underground caverns. -- PHOTO: ARKADIA
A screen shot of Planet Arkadia, where players can purchase property of underground caverns. -- PHOTO: ARKADIA
A screen shot of Planet Arkadia, where players can purchase property of underground caverns. -- PHOTO: ARKADIA
A screen shot of Planet Arkadia, where players can purchase property of underground caverns. -- PHOTO: ARKADIA
A screen shot of Planet Arkadia, where players can purchase property of underground caverns. -- PHOTO: ARKADIA
A screen shot of Planet Arkadia, where players can purchase property of underground caverns. -- PHOTO: ARKADIA
A screen shot of Planet Arkadia, where players can purchase property of underground caverns. -- PHOTO: ARKADIA
A screen shot of Planet Arkadia, where players can purchase property of underground caverns. -- PHOTO: ARKADIA
A screen shot of Planet Arkadia, where players can purchase property of underground caverns. -- PHOTO: ARKADIA
A screen shot of Planet Arkadia, where players can purchase property of underground caverns. -- PHOTO: ARKADIA
A screen shot of Planet Arkadia, where players can purchase property of underground caverns. -- PHOTO: ARKADIA

A US$1 million (S$1.26 million) property has met with strong demand after its launch last month.

But there is a catch: the property exists only online.

This has not stopped Arkadia Underground "deeds" from being a hit with the players of Planet Arkadia, a virtual economy developed by Singapore-based Arkadia Studios on free-to-play 3D gaming platform Entropia Universe.

Exact take-up rates were not disclosed, but Arkadia Studios chief executive and founder David Dobson said the company was overwhelmed by the response.

A virtual queue of more than 50 avatars formed when the deeds were first made available last month.

Although this is not the first property offered for sale in-game, few others offer such low barriers to entry at US$5 (S$6.30) per deed, said Mr Peter Dobson, Arkadia Studios chairman and David's uncle.

He said: "In the past, mostly players who were wealthy in-game could purchase property. But now, at only US$5, more players can buy a deed, which makes them feel even more connected to the planet."

Some individual players have purchased up to thousands of the 200,000 deeds available.

The property does not look like your typical condominium. Designed as a network of underground caverns, it has an in-game space about one-tenth of Singapore's land area, although this can expand quickly to accommodate a bigger population.

While investors can profit by reselling their deeds at a higher price to other players or by auctioning them off, they cannot "rent" out their properties. Each deed entitles its buyer to an equal share in the aggregate property, rather than the ownership of a specific location on Arkadia Underground.

Investors can also earn daily revenue based on activity occurring within the Underground.

Players visiting Arkadia Underground obtain loot through activities such as mining or hunting monsters. Five per cent of the loot's value is deducted and distributed equally among all deed owners, so an investor with more deeds will earn more income.

"Although still early days, the deeds are currently offering returns at an average of 17 per cent," said Mr David Dobson.

He said investors feel secure partly because the Entropia Universe, created by Swedish developer MindArk PE AB, is "a perpetual virtual world".

"It has been around for over 10 years and is growing... it's designed to go on forever".

The Universe's currency, the Project Entropia Dollar (PED), has been fixed at a rate of 10 per US dollar for the past decade, unlike other virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, which rise and fall with demand.

Players need to use PEDs. which they can purchase with US dollars, to buy the deeds to Arkadia Underground. Conversely, players can also convert their PEDs into US dollars to be transferred into their bank accounts at any point. But these withdrawals, which involve security checks, can take up to 30 days.

Singaporean player Abdul Ajis, 36, is an IT professional in real life. But on Planet Arkadia he is called "the-unknown". He holds close to 90 Underground deeds, and has plans to increase that to around 100 in the next few days.

"I expect the price of deeds may increase up to US$8 (S$10.10) within three months as demand for them increases, so I could potentially sell them at a profit," he said.

Mr David Dobson offered no guarantees, but did state that Planet Arkadia "is the fastest growing within Entropia Universe, and has enjoyed a quadrupling of activity year on year now for 3 years".

Arkadia Studios was founded in Singapore in 2010, and Planet Arkadia was launched in May 2011. The company's offices are now located at Blk 71 Ayer Rajah Crescent, a community of start-ups.