Want to be mayor of a suburb? Got eight bucks?

Not Real World: Kansas City 

Want to be mayor of a suburb? Got eight bucks?

The Department of Burnt Ends knows that cybercitizens have more fun. First, computer geeks created families and built houses in the Sims. Then they dreamed up alternate personas on Second Life. Now virtual citizens are laying claim to cities and states in a new online world that its creators describe as "Monopoly on steroids."

In December, Weblo.com debuted with the promise of "Making the World Virtually Yours." Here's how it works: A customer coughs up real money to purchase the Weblo version of, say, Missouri. The cybergovernor pimps the state by posting all sorts of pictures and news articles and tourism information on the Web site. The cyberchief gets a portion of any advertising posted on the state's page and a cut of the sale price when anyone buys something in that state.

"We hope to eventually become a mix of MySpace, Monopoly and Wikipedia, where users can come to social network, make money, have fun and look up any information on a state, city or property," says Weblo spokesman Scott Ledingham.

So the Department of Burnt Ends decided to find out how Kansas City is stacking up.

At the state level, Missouri has bragging rights over Kansas. The Sunflower State sold for just $3,800, whereas the current bidding war for the Show-Me State has topped $8,700. Neither came close to top seller California — it cost $53,000 — but both outrank Midwest neighbors like Nebraska ($2,400) and Oklahoma ($3,400).

As to the cross-border college rivalry, Weblo did little to settle the score. The University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Kansas sold for $2 apiece.

Ledingham says most towns have been selling for about $10, but KC beat that by a wide margin, garnering $30.10. The City of Fountains also topped St. Louis, which went for a mere $22. Kansas City, Kansas, on the other hand, didn't even hit double digits, selling for just $9.77.

As for the suburbs, Kansans outclassed Missourians. Raytown and Independence each sold for just $5, and North Kansas City sold for the rock-bottom price of $3.50. Overland Park and Olathe, meanwhile, went for more than $8 a pop.

Mike Jameson is the virtual mayor of North Kansas City — and more than 750 other cities across the computer-simulated country. The Connecticut realtor owns nine different towns in Kansas and, being a big Walt Disney fan, he also bought the Laugh-a-gram studio in Kansas City. His brother lives in St. Louis, but he has never visited any of his virtual Midwest towns. Jameson has already made a 40 percent return on his investment, though, and says he's in discussions with a real-world presidential candidate to purchase his Weblo version of Washington, D.C., for a five-figure sum. Jameson has also put North Kansas City on the market for $999.

The Connecticut realtor says he tried to buy Kansas City a couple of months ago, but neither the KCK nor KCMO mayor was willing to sell. The virtual mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, was also unwilling to address her real-world constituents. "JEN075" — a Wichita resident who also owns Topeka and Branson — isn't interested in speaking with the media.

So much for democracy in cyberspace.

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