How much real-world money would you pay for a virtual object in an online game? If you’re Erik Novak, the answer is $330,000 U.S. Novak forked over the princely sum to acquire the Crystal Palace Space Station, a piece of virtual property in the massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) Planet Calypso.

Novak, the person behind the “Buzz Erik Lightyear” game avatar, earned the property after being the highest bidder in a public auction of the Crystal Palace, a popular hunting destination in the game that is in orbit around Planet Calypso.

Novak called the acquisition a “stunning investment opportunity” and said he had complete faith that he would recover what he spent fairly quickly.

“To say Planet Calypso has changed my life would be an understatement,” Novak added in a prepared statement.”I have even found the love of my life in the game, and now we live together in real life. I feel very confident about purchasing the Crystal Palace Space Station asI have already invested years of time, dedication, work, hope and love.”

Planet Calypso is a real cash economy MMORPG developed and published by First Planet Company, a subsidiary of the MindArk Group. The game is offered as a free download, and players participate in a unique virtual economy where virtual currency has a fixed exchange rate of 10:1 with the U.S. dollar, allowing players to deposit and withdraw real money in the game and buy and sell virtual goods that have an equivalent value in real-world currency. Enterprising players can open shops, purchase virtual land, and even apply for virtual loans.

Crystal Palace is the third major property to be auctioned off in Planet Calypso. The first auction, for Treasure Island, took place in 2004 and the property sold for $26,500 U.S. to Australian gamer David “Deathifier” Storey. The second auction took place in 2005 when American gamer Jon “NEVERDIE” Jacobs bought a Virtual Space Resort for $100,000 U.S. According to figures released by the Planet Calypso‘s publisher, Jacobs’ Club NEVERDIE Resort brought in more than $50,000 U.S. in mining and hunting rights alone in its first five months, and his overall fortune was valued at $1.5 million U.S. in 2006.

Planet Calypso is part of the Entropia Universe (formerly Project Entropia). Set in a distant future, the planet Calypso is home to an expanding human colony struggling with the natural and economic elements involved in establishing their new civilization.