Updated: Jul 21, 2021
that is ‘quickly becoming the largest and most dynamic blockchain-based economy in existence'
An Interview with Featured Contributor, Idan Zuckerman,
Co-founder of property trading game, Upland.me
Anyone using the Brave browser of late will have seen adverts for Upland, the new blockchain-based NFT metaverse that is, as they say, ‘quickly becoming the largest and most dynamic blockchain-based economy in existence’. Upland is fun. It’s mapped to the real world and allows its users to buy, sell and trade virtual properties mapped to real addresses, build a dream house, start a virtual business and earn its native tokens by selling NFT properties in a free and open marketplace.
Upland launched in 2019 as a metaverse with a unique attribute, that of mapping its digital world to the real world. This adds a delicious piquancy where citizens can purchase plots and buildings replicated from the real world. The extra layer of verisimilitude is a sure fire way of ensuring long term success for this platform as it combines two key quirks of human nature – the first of wanting to be a digital replica and the second that of being a tourist.
For the former I give you as witness the first thing anyone ever does with google earth – they look up their own address as if they have never seen it before. Does it have to be immortalised digitally to exist in real life? The second is the reason people travel – to see other cities, countryside and even beaches.
Add into that the possibility of being a property mogul and it’s a dead cert.
Upland was co founded by Dirk Lueth and Mani Hoginstein. It opened up its beta in January 2020 and states as its objective to become an earth metaverse. Originally, Idan and Mani hailed from a gaming background while Dirk comes from blockchain. Back in 2017 they were struck by the CryptoKitties craze and what this could mean for future digital ownership.
“It hit us like a cannonball that the ultimate NFT is property. Go to any location in the world and every property is unique, even multiple properties in a tower block.”
As gamers, the other fact that struck him is that nearly everyone in the world has played the game Monopoly.
“There is an immediate connection to property, even in a gamified fashion.”
Idan points out the inherent comprehension for property values which does not need to be explained. A property is downtown San Francisco is worth more than one in the suburbs or in the vernacular - Location, location, location.
The rename Upland derives from the popular Netflix series Stranger Things which features a parallel universe. Both are not directly matched, just enough to make things feel familiar.
In Upland, there are landmark buildings such as the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate bridge. Currently there are two main centres of activity and
other cities and countries will be rolled out on a phased basis.
Each centre – city for now – is divided into three tiers. Downtown or the most expensive, mid-tier and then the starter homes out in the burbs. At current prices, top properties are costing approximately $20,000 but starter homes begin at a couple of dollars.
The concept of neighbourhood is very strong and these will form the basis of decision making in the game.
"Our plan is to allow neighborhoods to make key decisions such as governance laws, planning regulations on things like height, architecture, green spaces, recreational facilities etc.”
There is also a vision that while neighbourhood autonomy is very important, Idan and his founders want to maintain a visual coherence of the metaverse, which includes supporting key landmarks. Builders will be given structures and then will need to obtain permission for the final architecture, a visible map that has to be approved by the Upland team.
Inside properties is another matter, and owners can decorate and furnish their property as they wish, it’s their castle after all. However, if internal structures are NSFW (not safe for work) then a notice needs to be erected and age requirements requested for any visitors to that building.
Currently moving inside properties is a 2D experience but that will soon be upgraded to 3D.
“I love the idea that you can furnish or decorate your property with other NFTs available for purchase in the game.”
The two hubs in Upland represent San Francisco and Manhattan which operate as ecosystems. They are connected via transport which requires monetary and time resources to move between them. In the same way, visitors cannot be in two places at once and if there is an event they wish to attend in one city, then they need to travel there in time.
There is an easy onramp for players at Upland, an ability to dip the toe into the water to see if they like the land before committing serious funds. The free play option allows people to visit without needing to become a citizen. As a visitor, the game owns your private keys, in fact all elements of blockchain are hidden to make access easier. In order to keep on playing you need to come back every seven days to renew your visa.
If the visitor has accumulated property and UPX coins but does not return within that period, these assets are automatically recycled back into the game.
“This is important. We are running an economy and absent players are a drain on the system. On the other hand, once you become a citizen then you get privileges, you get access to your private keys and you own any property that you have purchased.”
All transactions are conducted through UPXs which can be purchased through the store or earned via the marketplace. When you buy land, then you can mint your property. You can purchase properties in the ecosystem or using fiat from other players who wish to liquidate their assets.
Upland is in beta but the roadmap is ambitious. Uplanders will need to buy things for their properties or hang out in coffee shops – these are all new businesses just waiting for entrepreneurial Uplanders to establish.
There will be new developments and brands entering the metaverse soon too. Currently there is only a flight option to travel between hubs but cars will be introduced before long. Then as shops open, brands will want to open their high street outlets and shops will stock names from fashion to food.
There is a very active Discord channel with an active and engaged community. The largest number of daily active users is 19,000 and that is growing very quickly. Events are already being organised, including recent activities for St Patrick’s Day. Leader boards are in place too to encourage activity in-game.
Access to the game is via the app store or Google Play. While Upland is currently only operational in two hubs, the rollout will be planned in strategic and rigorous fashion. Idan and his team are conscious not to flood the market and will gradually open up in tandem with demand.
“We want to open up the world in a responsible way, keeping the economy stable.”
To get the best up-to-date information, visit the Discord channel and check out any of the newly sprung podcasts and video posts on the topic.