VR world turns digital currency into cold cash

One of the more unusual projects funded during the height of the cryptocurrency boom is making its debut as an unlikely financial success for many of its participants.

Decentraland, a virtualreality world owned by its users where people are already spending real money to buy plots of land and other property, went live on Thursday. The project raised more than $20 million in a matter of moments during its initial coin offering in 2017.

Many of the coin holders are now looking to turn a profit by trading goods and services in the virtual community’s cryptocurrency, known as Mana. The token has more than doubled this year, though it’s still down from its 2018 high. Virtual land is also flying off the shelves, with about $1 million in plots sold in the past 10 days, according to data tracker NonFungible. That makes the project’s virtual property by far the most traded asset on the Ethereum blockchain.

“We believe it’s inevitable that people will spend a significant amount of time in virtual worlds,” said Mark Murphy, chief operating officer of Digital Group, an investor in Decentraland and Mana.

Decentraland is operated by a newly created decentralised autonomous organisation. The software holds funds to pay coders to develop the virtual world and owns public lands such as plazas and roads. And because it’s just software that sits on a distributed network of servers, it can’t be easily shut down or censored by governments.

“The users are in control of the assets, which is something that hasn’t happened before,“ Ari Meilich, project lead for Decentraland, said.

In the works for more than two years, the virtual world is being launched at a time when many of the socalled alt coins smaller cryptocurrencies that compete with Bitcoin are rallying amid a revival of the largest digital asset. Many alt coins plunged in value when the crypto bubble burst in 2018, with tokens from numerous projects failing to survive.

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