This week, the hottest real estate market in the world isn't in New York, London or San Francisco. It's in Ultima Online, one of the first and most successful online fantasy games.
Where else would thousands of prospective land owners camp all night waiting for prized lots to open up? And where else would swords and spells and the occasional duel to the death be used to settle property disputes?
The Ultima Online land rush is happening now because of a recent change to the "house decay" policy, where houses unattended to for more than 90 days begin to crumble. After five days of decay, the house disappears, the contents are displayed for all to pick over, and the land opens to the first player who can stake a claim.
"It's something our players have wanted for a long time, and I'm thrilled we could finally give it to them," said Anthony Castoro, producer of Ultima Online. "The day before the houses started falling, we were seeing stories of players calling in sick for work, players staying up all night waiting for particular houses to fall and players making plans to expand their existing houses into castles or towers."
The end result was that tens of thousands of houses fell, and tens of thousands of houses were built in their places. Open lots are still available, but are quickly being snatched up. Players interested in UO home ownership should log in and search out a spot as soon as possible.
"This week has been the best time," said one player. "This shows why the housing system in UO is still the best of any online game."
Another player said, "It's events like this that really point out why UO is better than the other online games. It's a fully developed fantasy world, not just a place where you bang on monsters all night long."
Former players who would like to get back into Ultima Online to check on their house or property, which may or may not be there anymore, can log into their former accounts for free for 15 days through a limited time subscription amnesty offer.