Skip to main content

Tomorrow's world

Is digital property safe as houses?

Republic Realm

The digital property market in the metaverse is booming, say Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan and George Steer in the Financial Times. In The Sandbox, one online world, you can snap up a private island with a villa for $104,000, then host the digital avatars of your friends there. Sandbox property owners include Adidas and the rapper Snoop Dogg; one company, Republic Realm, has spent $4.3m on the digital equivalent of three square miles.

All in all, $500m of metaverse property was sold last year. Firms are excitedly imagining a “bright future” in digital mortgages and rental markets. But there are snags. Land close to the “public plazas” in Decentraland, another online world, is pricier than more out-of-the-way plots – but unlike in the real world, in Decentraland you can teleport anywhere “at the click of a button”. There are also doubts about “the long-term future of metaverse purchases”. Online games are sometimes shut down once companies deem the cost of running them too high. Though you might own a sumptuous digital mansion, media professor Edward Castronova says, the company running the world has no legal obligation “to continue to provide electricity to servers so you can access it”.