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Friday, June 25, 2004

THE SIM'S STORY, CHAPTER 3

(Being an ongoing account of one simulator's history, from its appearance in the world to the community that emerges from it. Chapter 1 here; Chapter 2 here.)

On June 18, I had a chat with Melissa Westerburg, who secured the corner of Tenjin for just under US$100. She had to keep the interview brief.

"My kids are busy [now]," Melissa warned me in advance. "Just not sure how long."

She takes me on a brief tour of her luxurious home, which a friend bought for her from a prefabricated kit. "I tried building one but I couldn't get everything lined up correctly," she says. "So [I] figured wait and learn some more, then I'll try."

"So the auction got pretty competitive for this plot of land," I begin.

"Yeah it did," she says, smiling. "My husband is the one that was actually doing the bidding for me." He has an account himself, but doesn't use it often. They decided on a maximum bid of US$115, and fortunately, came out on top, some $20 under that ceiling.

I point out that it's a lot of money to pay, for the right to lease this land on a monthly basis.

"The only thing I can say is, I just wanted it, It's beautiful out here. I can just sit out here and watch the sunsets. I mostly play at night once [my kids] have gone to bed; I do have some time during the day to play but mostly end up away from the keyboard." Far as what she'd like to on her tiny island, "I'd like to build a house and just learn to build things."

I get a fairly different story, when I ask Clint Cartier what he plans to do with the property he successfully bidded on in Tenjin.

"I have land in Tenjin?"

"According to the auction site, you do."

"Oh," says Clint. "Must have forgotten."

Turns out, Clint bids on a lot of properties, on a regular basis. "If I bid on it," Clint explains, "I did for resale. I am currently building in Yamato." I find the plot of land he bid on, and show it to him on the auction site-- it's actually located near the center of the sim, and it's totally underwater.

And then it comes to him. "OH, OK... Basically, I figured If I could get the land [in Tenjin] at a low price at the auction, I could resell it in-game for a small profit. That's why I forgot about it," he laughs. "It sold."

"IT'S UNDERWATER!"

"Yes, I thought of putting a large yacht I made, with LAND FOR SALE signs on the side. I put a yacht on the water over the land... The land was sold. The yacht is gone."

He believes he sold it for Linden $2900, which would mean he made a profit of L$1610, in the resale-- he originally bought it at auction for L$1310. (A profit of five bucks, in US dollars.)

"I try to price the land for quick sale," says Clint. "$L2900 is not a lot, compared to land I have priced for $L27,000 in other sims. The Tenjin land was actually a large profit compared to my normal [net]... If I got a good deal for 2000 square meters of of land, I will normally only mark it up $L1000 or 2000."

Recently, Clint has become a pretty active land speculator, bidding on over ten plots over a week's time.

"So how much do you make a week, do you estimate?"

"I am not too sure," Clint says, "because I am new at the real estate business. But I would think at least L$5,000-10,000 profit." (Ballpark, that's $20-$40, in American currency.) He bids not for the money per se, however. "More for the fun of it. But the money is great."

Of course, playing the auctions comes with its own risks.

"I bid 70,000 USD on a plot by accident the other day," says Clint. "I meant to enter $70.00 and somehow got $70,000. So I was sitting there for five minutes or so sweating like crazy. Luckily it only hit $161.00, but it was still more than I wanted to pay. But it was my mistake, so I did not try to back out of the auction. I ended up getting rid of it at quite a loss... oh well."

Meanwhile, over at Melissa Westerburg's island, standing on the deck, I ask her if she's met any of her neighbors.

"No," Melissa answers. "I've flown around a few times but haven't really seen anyone." At the time we spoke, the only visible building from her deck was the rather imposing Japanese castle looming over Tenjin, in the neighboring sim.

By this week, however, that had changed. Drastically. More next Monday.

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