What is Decentraland (MANA)?

Conor Maloney

March 28, 2018

Described as an “open-source initiative to build an open world”, Decentraland is an interesting project that is sure to delight Minecraft fans as much as it horrifies technophobes. In Decentraland, you can buy and develop parcels of virtual land. Using the MANA token, you can literally buy real estate, of which there is a finite amount, and create buildings and other infrastructure for you and other players to explore in virtual reality.

I’m not talking about peanuts here, either – someone just spent over $100,000 on a plot of virtual land in Decentraland.

Welcome to the future, I guess! Silbert isn’t just randomly raising his voice in that tweet, by the way – LAND is a non-fungible asset used to buy in-game real estate, and you get it by burning MANA, an ERC20 token currently ranked at 120 on Coinmarketcap. So you buy MANA tokens and exchange them for in-game property.

$113000 is a lot of money, but with in-game purchases and inter-player trading on the cards for the gaming platform, there’s a good chance that a huge plot of “land” could actually be turned into a profitable virtual enterprise that generates returns to be spent in the real world. A virtual theme park? Crypto casino? Blockchain Disney Land? Maybe it will just be high rise apartment buildings for the hard-working virtual citizens to call home – who knows!

If you’re not familiar with this kind of thing, it might all sound a bit outlandish, but this isn’t the first time people have dropped big bucks on virtual lives. While Decentraland has the added features of being a fully immersive VR experience running on a blockchain protocol to track land ownership, games like Second Life have been around for years, with a very dedicated fanbase. Let’s take a quick look at the highlights to get an idea of what we could expect from a successful implementation of Decentraland.

Could Decentraland replace Second Life?

Second Life launched in 2003, and it’s still active to this day. In fact, the game is still so popular that the virtual world has a GDP of $500 million annually – more than some small countries! Not only that, but in-game users redeemed $60 million from their in game businesses in 2015, meaning that it’s not all fun and games.

People are actually earning real money in the virtual world, with educational projects like genetics labs run by real professors , reputable enterprises like bars and cafes, and less reputable enterprises like and $3000-a-week furniture businesses selling beds for people to have kinky, virtual cyber-sex on.

Maybe that $113,000 investment in Decentraland isn’t looking like such a bad idea after all! Bringing VR to the Second Life dynamic and combining it with the crafting options that made Minecraft one of the most popular games in the world is a pretty great idea, not to mention powering the whole thing with a cryptocurrency token with a real utility.

The graphics are dated as the game is still in development, but when thinking of the potential of the platform, you have to admit, it does look pretty cool.

As seen in the tweet above, crypto-venture capitalist and early investor Barry Silbert is very bullish on the project, and he’s not shy about saying so. Silbert is a pretty major player in the space – he owns Coindesk through his company, Digital Currency Group, and as such has a big vested interest in the success of the Decentraland project. Digital Currency Group has a stake in Brave, the online payment system – and Brave is a partner of Decentraland. It’s all connected, man.

Decentraland also announced yesterday that they’ve partnered with WAX and OPskins, a company specializing in online assets sold in video games, which sounds like a smart move. So far, so good, right?

Like I said, I think it’s a good idea. But – there are a few problems. A lot of problems, potentially.

What could go wrong?


Decentraland is far from perfect. Despite raising $25 million in their 2016 ICO, critics claim that the developers are both underfunded and inexperienced when it comes to making MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games). In fact, none of the developers listed on the site have any game development experience at all – yikes!

That’s not an issue to be taken lightly – the video game sector is one in which a project that lags behind may never catch up. One notorious example is colossal failure Duke Nuke’em Forever, a game that announced a launch date and then fell behind. By the time they were ready to launch, the graphics in the game had been rendered practically obsolete in the fast-moving video game industry, and the company determined that the game wouldn’t sell due to seeming too old. They went back to the drawing board to make more adjustments, sunk more money in, and never solved the problem, disappointing fans and throwing away a huge amount of money.

People have also cited the lack of solutions for possible scaling problems as a major flaw in the project, and finally, while the tokens make sense for a blockchain project, people just aren’t convinced that the project needs to be on the blockchain in the first place. Second Life and Minecraft have done great without it – is the inclusion of the blockchain protocol just more bandwagoning as people follow the trend?

Personally, this is one of the projects I’m most interested in at the moment. I can’t say I’m particularly optimistic, but I really hope it works out. While part of me is stuck thinking that virtual real estate is nonsense, the much more fun part of me reeeally wants to own virtual real estate that I can explore, so I’ll be keeping an eye on this one. You can buy land in Decentraland here, but don’t just jump in and do it! Keep reading, do some more research and see whether you think Decentraland has what it takes to create a fully functioning crypto-virtual reality for us all to get nightmarishly addicted to have a great time in!

Interested in other cool crypto posts….check out Mining Wars: Bitmain vs Dragonmint and The Price of Bitcoin vs Cost of Mining.

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