There.com CEO Michael Wilson just announced that the company is pulling the plug on its website (There Central) and its seven year old 3D immersive virtual world simulation at 11:59 PM on March 9th. The platform was geared to a younger user demographic with entertainment as the core value proposition. Its cartoon-like virtual reality environment provided users with free access to a very entertaining and nicely implemented virtual world-based social network.
The virtual world product created revenue by leveraging an in-world economy driven by managing participant access to simulation capabilities. In other words, they would charge participants for virtual goods such as clothing, pets, houses, vehicles, mustaches, furniture etc. They even charged participants to take part in virtual events/activities such as paintball and racing matches. Those who paid for a premium membership, could develop and sell virtual goods to other participants. There were many tens of thousands of items for sale within the simulation - of which many were made available by premium member developers. There's whole economy was based on an in-world virtual world currency called Therebucks with one real dollar converting to about 1,800 Therebucks.
Unfortunately, the company announced that it will only provide full refunds for Therebucks purchased after Feb 1. Otherwise, as is the case with the collapse of any other economy, the Therebucks in the virtual hand of a basic participant will likely be worth virtually nothing after the 9th. The company is, however, providing a short-term currency buyback program for developers. It will be interesting to see how they manage this or if it causes a run on the virtual bank. Check out this posing from there's shutdown FAQ:
You can only redeem Therebucks you have made by selling developer items. Therebucks you have collected from Sparkles, Tips, or give trades from other members are not eligible.
Please do not attempt to game the system. It is not fair to There, and it is not fair to other members. Also, you will not be cheating There out of virtual currency, or virtual goods, you will be cheating us out of real money. Fraudulent transactions will not only put you at risk of permanent banning from There but may also qualify for escalation to law enforcement as well.
And what about all the in-world assets that many many participants thought they owned? Well, if you are a developer then all indications are that you'd better hurry up and get them. Again, from the FAQs:
If you wish recover the textures, catalog images and model files from your developer submissions, please send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide a list of Submission IDs of the material you wish to recover.
On the other hand, if you are a basic user who invested heavily in the trappings of There's virtual world, then you may be out of luck.