March 4, 2014
05) Fake Estate
Last week, with the website done and the trailer close, I was gearing up for the big private launch to my 84 insiders when I decided to finally call my lawyers. I was expecting maybe some tweaking to my aging Stock Purchase Agreement, but instead I received an earful about private offerings and state exemptions.
I’d known about stockholder limits from hearing the crowd-funding political rhetoric that led to last fall’s JOBS act, which passed. I knew the new law made it easier to have many small investors. What I didn’t know was that the SEC hadn’t changed its rules yet, that the needed provisions were in the “comment phase.” I was told, “You cannot have more then ten investors without getting federal and state exemptions.” They told me they could get these waivers for $5000.
Damn. I couldn’t afford the hour long lawyer talk, let alone the time and money these exemptions would take. With only five weeks until the money ran out, this was a problem. Moreover, I wasn’t allowed to make good on the promise I had made to my 84 potential stockholders that they could get a slice of future revenues for as little as $250.
So what to do? The crowd-funding site Kickstarter steers clear of this trap by focusing on purchase or donor transactions, such as selling future copies of a book. We could do the same thing, but our end product is free-to-play. We could sell the future coin-of-the-realm, crystals, but I’d already promised my 84 people free crystals for life.
What sort of MacGuffin could I sell to raise money? Some sort of special title or icon? Special mention in a credits page? A signed copy of a CD or thumb drive? Everything seemed rather cheap and unworthy of the trust these people would be putting into this endeavor.
Then one morning I woke and had a brainstorm. I’d sell real estate, or rather “fake estate.” The Tidepool world is split up into hectares (the metric acre, think “square football field”). To make your own neighborhood, you claim a hectare and its yours. People cannot modify it without your permission. Since the Tidepool world is modeled on our own world, you’ll be able to settle the hectare around your house. You could also settle Times Square or Beverly Hills.
The plan was to have the “Great Tidepool Land Rush” sometime in June, when everyone would walk from their starting point to wherever they’d like to settle, with all having the same opportunity to get choice spots. The new idea is to sell reservations in advance. Buy Trafalgar Square for $50 so that on Land Rush Day you’d already have it.
Yes, it’s really about supporting the project. The land is of token value, but at least it’s something that makes sense within the context of the game. When the world starts filling up, these areas will be desirable. And having played another “virtual world on top of our world” game before, I can tell you that it kinda sucks when someone else owns your own house. So we’ll sell “fake estate” as a way to raise money, at least until the lawyers can get us some real stockholders.