Second Life creates a millionaire

Anshe Chung's online assets now worth more than US$1 million in the real world

A press conference this week on Second Life, the virtual world where "land" and buildings are now so valuable someone is claiming to have made a million dollars, proved remarkably like a reporter's first life.

Except for the teleporting and the dancing squirrel, that is.

The news was that Anshe Chung, a Second Life character created by a woman named Ailin Graef, now has assets in the online world that are worth more than US$1 million in the real world. Second Life has its own currency, called Linden Dollars, but people in real life (RL) are willing to pay for things like islands, office buildings and houses that will only ever appear on someone's PC screen.

Second Life is the brainchild of Linden Research Inc., which has its real-life headquarters in the San Francisco that spawned many of the imaginary business models of the dot-com era. According to Linden, it is owned and built entirely by its inhabitants, and there are more than 1.6 million of them (a subscriber can have more than one character).

New residents come into the world with nothing but some plain clothing. They can get a small number of Linden dollars with a free, basic account or buy a premium account for US$9.95 per month. (Quarterly and yearly payment plans cost less.) Using Linden Dollars, residents can dress up and buy things, including (for premium members) virtual land. But Linden also lets users buy Second Life assets with real money, through online auctions.

With the aid of a press release made available to reporters outside Second Life, the announcement drew a healthy crowd of avatars, the animated characters that populate this newly lucrative world. More than 30 people -- it was unclear how many were media, either virtual or real -- gathered in a hall that looked a bit like a small Chinese opera house.

In some ways, a meeting's just a meeting: It starts with finding the venue (the hall, called Mengjing, could be found through one search feature but not another), getting there on time (one-click "teleporting" is a lot easier than navigating Silicon Valley traffic), and making small talk while waiting for the event to start. If a few strangers need something to discuss, it helps if half of them don't yet know how to move their bodies and the other half do.

At this press conference at least, all the talking took the form of text-messaging the entire room. That made for an eerie silence once the event began, with typing and picture-taking the only sounds. One participant asked if there was sound available and got no reply. (There was some soothing music piped in, which made it seem even less like a press conference.)

Typing questions and answers takes longer than talking, so the meeting went on for about 90 minutes, a long time for a press conference. Most attendees stayed for the whole thing, though their human counterparts may have been doing other work on the side. The whole transcript was saved through a History function in the chat tool. Characters walked and flew in and out, including one with a big bushy tail, who danced in front of the stage for a moment and then moved on.

Graef, a German citizen, grew up in Hubei, China. In 2004, with help from husband and business partner Guntram Graef, she started out selling small items such as clothes and animations. Then she began buying and selling land, and today their company, Anshe Chung Studios (ACS) specializes in developing "sims," or virtual places to live and work. ACS owns about 500 sims, each of which simulates 256 meters by 256 meters of land. Their value has gone up to between US$1,675 and US$2,000 each, depending on the evaluation method, she said.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?