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Experimental game features $77,000 downloadable item

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Peter Molyneux

For better or worse, game designer Peter Molyneux knows how to get people talking about his work.

The creator of legendary franchises like Populous, Black & White and Fable has a knack for making big, crazy promises that pique gamer interest and turn his games into significant events. And while the final product often comes up a bit short of his dreams, it's always fun watching him aim for the stars.

For his next trick, however, he's aiming for your wallet by releasing a piece of downloadable code that costs a cool £50,000 -- or roughly $77,000.

Shown off during the E3 convention in Los Angeles, Curiosity is Molyneux's first game following a split with Lionhead Studios, the company he founded in 1997. It's a high-concept, experimental art game in which multiple players chisel away at a black cube. The last one to tap on the cube before it splits open is the only one to receive whatever is buried inside. Molyneux and his new development team at 22 Cans will then study what happens as word of the prize starts blowing up through social channels.

And since there's glory in that final tap, Molyneux is incentivizing players to fork over some cash for better chisels. For about a buck, players can buy a powerful Iron Chisel. But if you really want to go big, you can cough up 77 grand to download the one-of-a-kind Diamond Chisel, which is about 100,000 times as powerful as the standard model.

"It's an insane amount of money," Molyneux told New Scientist."This is not a money-making exercise; it is a test about the psychology of monetisation."

A psychology test? Indeed, that's the point of 22 Cans, who are planning on creating 22 experimental game projects designed to explore how we react to social media. Taken together, the results will then form the backbone of a new game, planned to be released in two years.

It's classic Molyneux — and it's already being skewered. Academic game designer Ian Bogost recently announced a new $10,000 diamond-encrusted "clicker" for players of his Facebook game satire, Cow Clicker.

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