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How the Skyblock IRL trading black market became a multi-million dollar empire

A common method of revenue for online gaming companies is to charge players real-life money for in-game products. This isn't the same for the Minecraft empire. In 2014, a Mojang employee pointed out in Minecraft's EULA that disallows revenue generation from the game – lethal for many popular servers in violation of the terms of use. Third parties are prohibited from charging for gameplay features — but it remains controversial how they enforce it.

Minecraft's largest server for years, Hypixel, released the "Hypixel Skyblock" minigame in late 2019. As its most creative medium for players and a test of persistence, it reached a peak of over 200,000 concurrent users in 2021 April and attracted a cornucopia of large content creators including Technoblade, Dream, and MrBeast.

Players strive for riches – with many reaching net worths of billions. In pursuit, some turn to shortcuts, generally unfair, such as in-real-life trading: a process involving the trading of IRL money with in-game items. Hypixel has long combated this, banning users involved in the market trading thousands every day. It was inevitable for the server itself to become the sole authorized seller.

In late 2020, Hypixel introduced the gem, a new option on the store. These could be used to trade for the Booster Cookie or Pet Skins. Due to the cookie's highly practical nature with major statistic boosts in-game, these cookies sold for millions on the Skyblock "Bazaar" market. Consequently, users could effectively pay approximately $1 USD for $1 million in the game. And for pet skins, the margin is even greater. A YouTube series from Minecraft YouTuber Ragetrain exposes just how easily players can progress through this process.

So far, it's estimated that the server has generated nearly $20 million, and won't stop for years to come.


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