Buy My Rock!

South Florida's Jon Jacobs wants to be a millionaire. His business: virtual real estate.

It's the big day. On a recent June afternoon, Jon Jacobs is rushing around his office inside his Spanish-style house in Miami's Design District. A 39-year-old with a British accent, Jacobs is checking the settings on four computers in the front room of his home. They are all connected to the online virtual-reality game called Entropia Universe. Each computer controls a character — called an avatar — in the game.

There's one for Jacobs. Another for Jacobs' fiancée, Cheri London. A third for Jacobs' 6-year-old son, Taliesin. And yet another for Dr. Kenneth E. Claus, a nondenominational reverend from Homestead.

"This is going to be the world's first dual real-world/virtual-reality wedding," Jacobs says excitedly as he paces around in jeans and a black button-up shirt.

The Rev. Kenneth Claus weds Jon Jacobs and Cheri London in Miami as the virtual ceremony occurs inside Club NeverDie (following images).
Colby Katz
The Rev. Kenneth Claus weds Jon Jacobs and Cheri London in Miami as the virtual ceremony occurs inside Club NeverDie (following images).
With a click of the mouse, Jacobs controls his handsomely attired avatar (following image) inside Entropia Universe.
Colby Katz
With a click of the mouse, Jacobs controls his handsomely attired avatar (following image) inside Entropia Universe.
In Entropia Universe, gamers can spend real-world money to buy virtual items at auction.
In Entropia Universe, gamers can spend real-world money to buy virtual items at auction.
Gamers hunt down roaming monsters for profit
Gamers hunt down roaming monsters for profit
Players can interact with others in the game.
Players can interact with others in the game.
Gamers have a first-person view of Entropia Universe, whether strolling around on an asteroid or hunting monsters with a sniper lens (following image).
Gamers have a first-person view of Entropia Universe, whether strolling around on an asteroid or hunting monsters with a sniper lens (following image).
A shrine on Memorial Island commemorates Jacobs' former girlfriend, Tina "Island Girl" Leiu.
A shrine on Memorial Island commemorates Jacobs' former girlfriend, Tina "Island Girl" Leiu.
Teleporters allow players to move quickly around Entropia Universe.
Teleporters allow players to move quickly around Entropia Universe.
Among possible destinations: the shopping mall at Club NeverDie.
Among possible destinations: the shopping mall at Club NeverDie.
Cheri London's avatar, Sheba, walks through Club NeverDie as other players dance in the club's disco (following images).
Cheri London's avatar, Sheba, walks through Club NeverDie as other players dance in the club's disco (following images).
Players can also furnish their own apartments, like NeverDie's.
Players can also furnish their own apartments, like NeverDie's.
The Unique Green Atrox Queen Egg.
The Unique Green Atrox Queen Egg.

London hears the comment and smiles supportively. A striking, slender black woman, she is fixing her makeup in front of the mirror as she continues to adjust her wedding dress — a noose-tight, white, leather one-piece that ends five inches above her knees.

"I will say this about Jon, my future husband," London comments. "He has a way of making life" — she takes a long pause for effect — "very, very interesting."

"Darling," Jacobs says as he enters the hallway, near the bathroom, "you look beautiful!"

Sure, London knows this is a strange way to be married. But she also knows her soon-to-be husband — a former independent filmmaker whose obsession with online videogames seems limitless — would have it no other way. That's because this ceremony, both real and pixilated, is going to be more than a simple I do/I do wedding. It will be a grand publicity stunt. Jacobs is hoping that hundreds of people who play Entropia Universe will attend the wedding — virtually.

And that would be a coup for him, because Jacobs — known as "NeverDie" in the game — is doing more than getting hitched inside a computer landscape. He's getting married inside his own virtual nightclub, Club NeverDie, which is located on an asteroid in Entropia Universe for which Jacobs reportedly paid $100,000 in October. Yes, that's real U.S. currency for a space rock that exists only in a videogame.

Jacobs currently holds the record for the most valuable piece of virtual real estate and claims he will soon make millions from his investment. He just needs to draw people in, like any other business, and an over-the-top publicity stunt like a virtual wedding is sure to bring in publicity and potential customers.

Today, the Rev. Claus, a slim 60-year-old man wearing a priest collar, will conduct the ceremony as he holds a microphone. His words will then be carried into the game for people attending the wedding virtually to hear. But there's a minor glitch: Either the game's servers or one of Jacobs' two Internet connections — a DSL line and Comcast cable service — are acting irritably. As Jacobs rushes around the room, checking settings and rebooting some of the computers, the Rev. Claus sits down at one of the machines, marveling at the messages coming from well-wishers.

Claus yells out: "Listen to some of the countries they're from here: Poland, Australia, Hungary, United Kingdom, Sweden, Slovakia, and Finland."

Finally, at about 4:25 p.m. on a sunny afternoon, the wedding begins. Jacobs and London stand next to each other in front of Claus. The floor is lined with power cords and CAT-5 cables.

"Let us begin," Claus says. "Dearly beloved, we have gathered together in the presence of God..."

Jacobs looks to his side and notices that one of the computers has been booted out of the game. He leaves his soon-to-be bride, clicks the mouse a few times, and then comes back to her side, offering a wry smile. Claus looks perplexed but continues the service.

"Now, Cheri, we are not only gathered here but with several hundred throughout the virtual world," the reverend says. "We ask you here and there, will you have Jon to be your husband to live together in marriage?"

London leans into the microphone. "Yes, here in reality, and yes, here in virtual reality," she says as Jacobs notices a problem with one of the other computers. He dashes across the room to try to fix it.

"Jon, will you have Cheri to live together in marriage? ... And you can't get away with answering that question by hopping over to fix this thing. Come over and answer this now."

Jacobs steps over, grabs London by the hand, and leans into the microphone. "In reality and in virtual reality, I do," he says.

They're now married here and in the computer-generated world of Entropia, where roughly 100 avatars have gathered at Club NeverDie.

While his marriage today is a huge step in his personal life, the ceremony is also pure marketing event. Jacobs has big plans for Club NeverDie, and if he can realize them, he could become the first millionaire of virtual reality. The game he plays and has invested time and money in — Entropia Universe — has an in-game economy that is linked seamlessly to our own. One U.S. dollar is worth 10 Project Entropia Dollars (PED), the currency of the game. Money can be put in and pulled out of the game with a credit card and the click of a mouse. Already, thanks to his $100,000 investment, Jacobs claims to be generating in excess of $10,000 per month in revenue through a mixture of taxes, real estate sales, and event tickets — all transacted exclusively in Entropia.

But some people who study virtual economies question Jacobs' claims of six-figure investments and big returns. Others ask the obvious: How safe is it to invest real-world money in a virtual world absent real-world laws?

Jacobs rebukes the criticism. He'll prove everyone wrong, he says. They simply don't see the potential of this new economy — a potential that he asserts will make him an unreal-estate mogul, a digital Donald Trump, a megabyte millionaire.

"People are barely figuring out what's possible here," Jacobs says in a loud voice as he navigates his avatar through Entropia. "This is fucking significant, man."


Jon Jacobs knew he wanted to be a star. In fact, early in his life, he felt destined for celebrity. "Some people just feel like they're going to go out and be a star" is how he puts it.

Though born in Derbyshire, England, in 1966, Jacobs was raised in London, the son of a beauty queen and a banker. The family lived on posh Cavendish Avenue, and Jacobs' childhood neighborhood likely had a lot to do with his longing for notoriety. According to a story Jacobs loves to tell — it's also included in his Internet Movie Database bio — he lived a few doors down from Paul and Linda McCartney. The attention the McCartneys generated fascinated him.

"I used to walk down the street, and the little Japanese fans would come up to me," he claims. "They knew I lived on the street, so they'd ask: 'Is Paul around? Is Paul around?'

"Let me see," he would reply, as if he knew the pop star. The 10-year-old Jacobs would run to his house, into the backyard, and jump over several walled gardens to reach the back of the McCartneys' house. He'd peek in the windows, jump back over to his house, and talk to the Japanese fans.

"No, sorry," Jacobs would often have to say. "Paul's not home."

He enjoyed the charms of an upper-middle-class life in England as he studied drama at the Sylvia Young Theatre School. By his early 20s, despite trying to produce a couple of shoestring films in London, Jacobs had yet to reach acting success. So he did what every aspiring actor does: He moved to California, arriving in September 1991 at age 24.

During the next few years, he made two movies — The Girl With the Hungry Eyes, a vampire horror flick based on a Fritz Leiber short story and set amid Miami's Art Deco buildings, and Welcome Says the Angel, an erotic thriller in which he co-starred with Rutger Hauer's daughter, Aysha.

The Girl With the Hungry Eyes received lukewarm reviews, but Welcome Says the Angel was lauded. "The wonder of this $17,000 feature is that it compares more favorably with the much praised Leaving Las Vegasthan you would imagine," the Los Angeles Times wrote.

Despite the work, Jacobs couldn't carve out a decent living. He earned peanuts for The Girl With the Hungry Eyes and acted in Welcome Says the Angelfor free.

By the mid-'90s, Jacobs was ready to give up on making it in Tinseltown. "I had directed a movie, starred in a movie, and I couldn't get a job at a video store," he complains, reciting the typical tale of Hollywood actor woe.

Jacobs moved to New Orleans and wrote what he believed would be his magnum opus, Lucinda's Spell, a screenplay about a prostitute-witch in New Orleans who needs to win back her orphaned son. He scraped together the financing and produced the movie, releasing it in September 1999. The New York Times described the film as a "deliberately vulgar, often offensive tale suitable for insecure teenage boys. The witches' conversations are like some fantasy of Beavis and Butt-head's about how women talk among themselves." Of Jacobs, the Times said he "has some on-screen appeal — somewhere between an aging rock star and a celebrity hairdresser — but he's a little too much in love with himself."

By then, having directed five films and acted in 15 others without even the scent of commercial success, Jacobs decided to make another change: He moved to Miami and, with the help of a friend, purchased a house in the Design District for $195,000 in April 2002. His Hawaiian-born girlfriend, Tina Leiu, moved in with him. They had a young boy together named Taliesin. Jacobs began working on a new movie, Hey DJ, about a South Beach disc jockey inspired by old Elvis Presley songs.

At the same time, Jacobs began to rekindle a longtime hobby: videogames. After a couple of years playing Ultima Online — an Internet-based game in which thousands of people play with and against one another, known as a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, or MMORPG — Jacobs discovered EverQuest. Often referred to as "EverCrack" for its addictive quality, EverQuest became a popular MMORPG after its release in the spring of 1999. Players inhabit a Tolkienesque fantasyland known as Norrath, where they battle monsters and interact with other gamers, collecting powerful weapons and greater skills as they progress in the game. But EverQuest is extremely time-consuming: Players must spend weeks, even months, to acquire the weapons and skills needed to excel. As a result, a black-market economy sprang up around EverQuest and other popular MMORPGs, such as World of Warcraftand Lineage. People began to sell, for real-world money, in-game items such as swords and potions.

Many of the early transactions occurred on eBay. A seller might auction a magical suit of armor, say, just as they would an MP3 player or a pair of jeans. Once the auction winner paid, the seller would arrange to meet and deliver the armor in the game. Despite objections from EverQuest's developer, Sony, an organic economy took root that used real-world money to pay for virtual items. In January 2002, Edward Castranova — now an associate professor of telecommunications at Indiana University — completed a study of the so-called "EverQuest economy." He reviewed thousands of eBay transactions and calculated that players earned an average of $3.42 per hour while playing the game and that EverQuest's Norrath had a per-capita gross national product of $2,266, comparable to that of Russia or Bulgaria. To exploit this economy, some entrepreneurs established virtual sweatshops — the most notorious being BlackSnow Interactive in Tijuana, Mexico — where laborers "farmed" items in the MMORPGs that were later sold for profit on eBay and other auction sites.

Today, on one website that sells EverQuest items, a high-level weapon called an Adjutant's Saber sells for $192.50 and a piece of armor known as the Belt of Thunderous Auras goes for $140. That's real, hard-earned Benjamins in exchange for goods that, well, don't actually exist.

Though intrigued with the way people were making money in EverQuest, Jacobs thought its economy was limited. "The economy operates outside of the game," Jacobs says. "I began to see the potential: What if there was a game that had an economy inside it?"

And in late 2002, he discovered such a game.


Jacobs stumbled upon a magazine article about a new game called Project Entropia, which would later be renamed Entropia Universe. Developed by MindArk, a small Swedish company, Entropia implemented what Jacobs had dreamed about: an in-game, real-cash economy that was not only condoned by the developers but encouraged. Players, who could deposit U.S. dollars in exchange for Project Entropia Dollars, had the potential to make real money inside the game and even to start a business. At the time, Entropia was in its testing phase. Jacobs signed up to be one of the early adopters.

Remembers Jacobs: "I thought, 'This is it. This is what will change how everyone views video gaming. '"

In Entropia, players are part of a new human colony on the planet Calypso in the distant future. They first arrive at Port Atlantis, a city on the western coast of one of the planet's two continents. Gamers have a first-person view of a three-dimensional world not unlike our own: The avatars, or people, vary greatly in size, body type, and appearance. Concrete cities dot a landscape filled with exotic animals and fauna.

Once inside the game — which is free to download at www.entropiauniverse.com — players have two options: invest real-world money to buy mining and hunting equipment or earn PED inside the game, cent by cent, by collecting "sweat" from roaming animals, called "mobs," that can be sold to other players. The sweat can be used to create, among other things, potion-like items that can be used to increase a player's mental skills. But, as in EverQuest,building enough "sweat" equity to buy the necessary equipment for a beginning player is an arduous if not impossible task. Since a $20 investment in the game can save a player weeks of time in the beginning, most new players deposit at least that much. Exchanged into PED, that money can be used to buy items directly from the game developers or from other players through in-game auctions or avatar-to-avatar transactions. Once equipped, players can hunt and kill mobs, some of which drop PED or other loot when killed, or try to mine the virtual land to unearth valuable minerals. But it's important for players to keep in mind that everything costs PED: Hunting can get expensive because ammunition costs money, just as in real life. Mining can be even more costly because the valuable equipment degrades quickly when used, also just as in real life.

Sound complicated? It is. And that's the point. Entropia's economy is designed to be as dynamic as our own, and so tasks that would require money in real life also cost hard-earned PED in Entropia.

"Since its concept stage sometime in 1995, Entropia Universe was developed with the real-world economy as a fundamental base," explains MindArk Chief Executive Officer Jan Welter Timkrans.

In other words, in Entropia, it's a money-making free-for-all. There are arms dealers who try to buy weapons low and sell them high at auction. Real estate speculators buy apartments, which can fetch prices in excess of $200, and then try to sell them later for profit. Craftsmen design furniture that is purchased in the game to decorate — no joke — players' apartments. Clothiers sew custom-made clothing that can be purchased by players and worn by their avatars, since style is as important in Entropia as it is on South Beach.

In early 2003, Entropia was moved from its testing phase and launched commercially for anyone to download and play. The developers claim that more than 450,000 accounts have been registered but will not disclose the average number of players in the game at one time.

During the early stages of the game, Jacobs established his avatar, NeverDie, as one of the best-known and most affluent in the game. He had the best weapons, armor, and mining equipment. "I feel like NeverDie is the ultimate name for a gamer, because everybody dies," he explains. "If you play games, you die."

Nearly two years after Entropia's commercial launch, MindArk made a surprising announcement in December 2004. The company would auction off a "newly discovered" (translation: newly added) island. By owning this virtual real estate, a player could levy taxes on all hunting and mining done on the land — collecting a small portion of all proceeds and potentially making money as a land baron. Called Treasure Island, the land also contained a castle. Jacobs hoped to turn the castle into a virtual nightclub and to promote the island as the game's premier hunting ground. He sold off everything he possessed in Entropia, including some of the game's rarest and most valuable items. He claims he raised 200,000 PED, or $20,000, from his items in the game.

Then the bidding started. Jacobs figured he had enough money to hold off any other buyer. But he was wrong. On December 14, 2004, MindArk announced that the Treasure Island auction had been won by another player, an Australian named Zachurm "Deathifier" Emegen, who paid a reported $26,500 for the land, a record price for virtual real estate.

Land ownership in Entropia is a prickly subject, because a legal system does not exist to mediate disputes and MindArk retains control of everything, no matter how much money a player invests in the game. What's more, land values can fluctuate more greatly than in the real world. In Entropia, unlike in the real world, land can literally be created by the developers. As more land is created, of course, demand and value can decrease.

Whether disputes over virtual real estate can be settled in real-world courts is still a legal unknown. Only one such case has been filed. In February 2002, BlackSnow Interactive filed a lawsuit against Mythic Entertainment after the developer announced that it would shut down the game Dark Age of Camelot, making virtual items related to the game worthless. BlackSnow ultimately dropped the case.

That lawsuit exemplifies the risk of investing in virtual real estate and items, says Richard A. Bartle, a London-based game developer who studies virtual economies. "If you buy things in a game like Second Life and the company announces that they're going to close the game down," he says, "you're in trouble, because you can't get your money back."

After losing his bid to buy Treasure Island, Jacobs began to see his personal life crumble. His girlfriend Leiu had been suffering from a flu that wouldn't go away. One morning, she couldn't get out of bed. "She was in great shape, but she was lying there in bed complaining about her throat," Jacobs says. "The next thing I know, she says, 'I can't breathe. '"

He rushed her to the hospital. Leiu was diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. His ill girlfriend found temporary freedom in Entropia. Island Girl was her avatar's name.

"I'd get up in the morning, and she'd be up already, hunting," he says. One time, he noticed her at the computer. Jokingly, Jacobs began to sing: "My girl's a gamer chick, and oh I love her so." For fun, they recorded the song and sent it to MindArk, which included it in Entropia's in-game jukeboxes. The song made NeverDie something of a virtual pop star.

But Leiu wasn't getting better. "I kept noticing weird shit, like hiccups," he says. "She'd get hiccups all the time."

They saw a doctor again in January 2005. She's not going to die, the doctor said. "A month later, she was dead," Jacobs recalls. "Somehow, whatever it did, it got her. She was 39."

Leiu had become a popular player in Entropia. To commemorate her, MindArk created a small piece of land called Memorial Island and erected a shrine for her. When players visit the commemorative, serene music plays. A picture of Island Girl is on one of the walls. A plaque reads: "This shrine is dedicated to the loving memory of Tina Leiu, 'Island Girl,' the ultimate virtual warrioress."

As he visits the shrine on a recent afternoon, Jacobs looks down and touches his chin gently.

"This is the only thing of its kind," he says. "This is really the first-ever virtual gravesite. We played Entropia enough for this to have more meaning to me than if there were a grave."


A few months after Leiu died, Jacobs met Cheri London, a regular performer at the Forge on Miami Beach. He hadn't expected to meet anyone so soon after Leiu's death, but there was something about London. "She was perfect," Jacobs recalls.

At the time, Hey DJ had been shot and was in the editing process. That left plenty of time for Jacobs to play Entropia again. And his timing couldn't have been better. MindArk announced the sale of another large piece of real estate in the game: an entire asteroid with 20 "biodomes" for hunting and mining, a nightclub and disco, a large arena, 1,000 individual apartments, and docking stations.

The official story goes that Jacobs refinanced his Miami house — and public records back up this claim — and pulled out about $100,000 in equity. MindArk then held an auction for the property in October 2005, with Zachurm "Deathifier" Emegen — the Australian who purchased Treasure Island one year earlier — and Jacobs the only players vying for the virtual real estate. After three days, the auction ended. Jacobs had won. The final bid: 1 million PED, or $100,000.

The record-setting sale quickly made news on the Internet. Jacobs still bristles with pride when he remembers logging on to the BBC's website to see the headline: "Virtual club to rock pop culture."

Jacobs named the asteroid Club NeverDie and announced an ambitious plan to bring in world-renowned DJs to stream live music inside the club.

But allegations quickly followed that Jacobs was an insider who had benefited from a fixed auction.

Two months after the sale, in December 2005, an Entropia gamer who goes by the name Francine found something curious and posted it to the Entropia forum: Jacobs had registered the web address clubneverdie.com ten days before the auction ended. "There is something really fishy here," Francine wrote. One hundred and thirty-six posts followed from gamers demanding an answer from Jacobs.

He did answer, telling the other gamers that registering a web address before he'd actually won the auction was just prudent planning: "I was ready to pounce [on the auction], and while you all were busy hunting and crafting, I was refinancing, I was plotting, I was buying web domains, I was telling everybody in the dance scene that I was going to start a virtual night club and I would want them to spin there."

And now, for $100,000, he was the proud owner of an asteroid orbiting in a sky that existed only in the algorithms of personal computers.

Jacobs claims that Club NeverDie, officially opened for business in early 2006, is a profitable enterprise. He's sold some of the 1,000 apartments, and he collects a 5.5 percent tax on all hunting and mining in the biodomes. He also runs monthly events, including dance parties and hunting competitions, where players can win shopping sprees at Club NeverDie's mall, which includes stores run by other players who sell, among other items, virtual furniture and virtual mining equipment.

Jacobs promotes those events just as he would a party on South Beach: He employs promoters to sell tickets, then collects a cut. His main in-game contractor is Lynette Firn, a 59-year-old psychology professor at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa. Known in the game as "MindStar MindStar 9," Firn has become Jacobs' in-game handler and marketing director.

"Entropia was the first time I played in a virtual world, and I was hooked from day one," Firn remembers.

Firn preferred avatar-to-avatar interactions — the "human" relationships — over hunting and mining. Jacobs realized that Firn understood the entrepreneurial potential of Entropia and hired her to help him promote Club NeverDie. She's become the club's official reporter — writing regular articles for the online forums that chronicle the club's events — and the in-game guide to any real-world journalist interested in visiting the club.

She is among a growing cadre of players for whom videogames create more than entertainment; they create jobs. Firn admits that her gig with Club NeverDie can sometimes feel like work — she has pressures, deadlines, and stress — but it's an oversimplification to think of playing Entropia as a second job, she says.

"There's also that fun element," Firn explains. "But Entropia has a different component to it. I'm actually applying event management skills I learned in real life to Entropia. To me, that's a lot of fun."

Jacobs flips through a small notebook next to his desk. It's his handwritten ledger: apartments sold, taxes collected. He's averaging 100,000 PED in monthly revenue, or about $10,000 per month. In a year, he says, his investment will have paid for itself. It's not inconceivable, Jacobs claims, that he could one day be virtual reality's first millionaire.

"I've got 1,000 apartments," he explains. "It's a pretty good revenue stream. They sell for about $100. That's $100,000. But what I'm doing is rationing them onto the market. This is the history of Entropia: Everything goes up. If I put all of my apartments on the market today with a starting bid of, let's say, $10, maybe I'd sell all of them within a week at an average of $50. Next year, they will be trading those same apartments for $250, $300."

But as he strives for success in virtual real estate, critics continue to nag. In May, Dan Hunter, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, penned a lengthy entry about Entropia for Terra Nova (terranova.blogs.com), a blog that covers developments in virtual economies. Hunter discovered that in September 2004, Jacobs had attended a technology and gaming conference in California called Digital Hollywood. According to a short bio published on the conference's website, Jacobs "is a famous and high-profile Entropia U.S. spokesperson."

"So it turns out that the 'sale' of Space Station 'NeverDie' was from MindArk to, um, one of their marketing and PR people," Hunter wrote.

Today, Jacobs denies that he was employed by or received special treatment from MindArk. He listed himself as a spokesman for the company to have an opportunity to promote the game. "I had the opportunity to speak, so I said, 'Sure I'll come speak,'" Jacobs says.

"Jon Jacobs is not and never has been an employee of our company," CEO Timkrans explains. "Many participants/members from our community represent us at various venues around the world because they believe in the potential and impact of Entropia Universe."

Hunter has made other complaints in his blog about MindArk's ability to generate publicity. MindArk has fired back, sending an e-mail to University of Pennsylvania administrators alleging that Hunter was "spreading slander" about Entropia.

Contacted at his office, Hunter declined to comment about the row. "I don't want to fan the flames," he says.

Those who study virtual economies seem to find Entropia distasteful. Edward Castranova, the Indiana University who analyzed EverQuest's economy, has been widely quoted in news media about his research. But he refused to participate in an article about Entropia and Jacobs, telling New Timesthrough a university spokesman: "The claims made by MindArk and Jon Jacobs are wildly exaggerated."

Says Jacobs: "It's very frustrating when these claims are made by people who are trying to make the masses understand what's going on."


On a recent afternoon, a few days after the wedding, Jacobs is content. More parcels of land have recently sold in Entropia, fetching as much as $15,000 for a plot of land comparable to just one of Jacobs' 20 biodomes. His movie Hey DJ has been released and has made the rounds to select theaters in the United States and Europe. Junior Jack just delivered a guest performance in Entropia on June 25, streaming into Club NeverDie as if he were spinning at a local club. More and more people are paying 40 PED — the cost to be transported from Calypso to Jacobs' asteroid — to visit Club NeverDie.

He's walking his avatar, NeverDie, through the club. In Entropia, avatars are designed by the players and can be thin or fat, pale- and/or dark-skinned, bald or hairy. NeverDie is a tall, white-skinned avatar with short brown hair who wears a purple hat and a purple and black coat that hangs to his ankles. Inside the club, Jacobs has decorated the walls with real-world pictures of the two women of his life, Leiu and London. There's also some truth to that New York Times film review that criticized Jacobs for being "a little too much in love with himself."

Jacobs directs his avatar in front of a large screen inside Club NeverDie. On the screen is a picture of Jacobs from Hey DJ sporting Elvis-like sideburns. The avatar stands in front of the man, like the puppet before the puppeteer.

"This is one of my favorite images — the avatar standing in front of the video screen," Jacobs says. "This is the future."

Suddenly, three people send messages to Jacobs at once. Someone has been inside Club NeverDie killing other players. In Entropia, avatars can die and are re-created without losing any items. The person isn't doing any lasting damage. He's just being annoying or, as Jacobs puts it, "a fucking idiot."

Jacobs brushes the incident off. But 30 minutes later, it spirals out of control. A player who was killed in Club NeverDie paid to place an advertisement in the game-wide bulletin system: "Ubers [high-level players] kill people in biodomes. Don't waste 40 PED."

Jacobs throws his hands in the air and slams them down on the desk, frustrated.

"You get idiots doing this: He comes up here. Somebody kills him, so he uses the advertising system to try to damage the business," Jacobs says. "You can't allow that dynamic. But this is a good example of the kinds of things that can happen in this business. But the same thing happens in real life. I could be running a club, somebody gets stabbed, and then the papers are saying: 'Don't go to Club Space.' I've got the same problem. At least here, no one really got hurt."

Jacobs spends the rest of the afternoon talking to the players and posting messages on the forums. It's work.

This isn't a game. It's a business.

Entropia Jackpots

Most Entropia Universe players earn a virtual living through hunting, mining, and manufacturing. But it's possible to hit huge jackpots in any of these industries. Here are Entropia's top-five bonanzas as of July 26:

On May 6, 2006, avatar Leeloo Leeloo Mountain unearths a massive deposit of copper stone. Value: $15,800.

On October 29, 2005, avatar Patrik Stormer Deluxe discovers a rich mine of lysterium stone. Value: $9,307.

On January 12, 2006, avatar Divine Vixen Incarnate hunts down a Daspletor Young, which leaves behind $9,036.

On July 18, 2006, avatar Petreat Agnus Dei Post Festum manufactures an item known as "Aber Laser Sight." Value: $8,494.

On June 26, 2006, avatar Naithen Noce Clan of Sirus brings down an Araneatrex Stalker, which drops $8,188.

The Incredible, Not-So-Edible, Virtual Egg

In Entropia, Jon "NeverDie" Jacobs has invested in more than just real estate. On July 20, 2006, he paid 100,000 PED, or $10,000, at auction for a rare item known as the Unique Green Atrox Queen Egg. It's a large egg with a thick, vibrating shell. Jacobs has placed it on display at Club NeverDie. It's the virtual equivalent of a casino's buying the Virgin Mary grilled-cheese sandwich to drum up publicity. Jacobs isn't sure whether the egg will produce a never-before-seen exotic animal or add something entirely new to the game. "Maybe it won't do anything at all," Jacobs admits. "It's a gamble." But the egg has, of course, generated buzz for Jacobs' virtual club. On an online forum, Entropia gamers are speculating about the egg's contents. Joked one Entropia player: "Why don't we just make a nice, big omelette?"

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