I’ve been looking for a virtual stock market game to play for quite some time. I wanted something like a fantasy football of the stock market.
In my search I had only found systems with a paid subscription model. I even found full stock market simulators that were based on fake stocks and made-up companies.
Recently I found a free, web-based stock market simulator that actually has the chance to pay you for playing (more on that later); UpDown matched all the things I was looking for and had some other features that made it even more interesting.
I always figured it’d be fun and give me some practice for real world investing. Plus in today’s economy, why not play with virtual money instead of risking real money.
Some of the features I was looking for:
- Real-world stocks
- Easy to track portfolio
- Free (no subscription required)
- Free (no need to buy virtual $ to invest)
- Risk-free, for fun only
- Not very time-consuming, unless you want it to be
UpDown is a great combination of all these features plus some that I would never have thought to implement. When you first sign up for an account, you start off with a cool million dollars ($1,000,000). You then pretty much have free reign to do whatever you’d like with that money. You can buy up to 20% of your portfolio’s value in one company’s stock or what you can afford. There is a $100 virtual commission charge for each trade.
With your million dollars, you might not know where to get started. To help, UpDown provides a lot of stock analysis tools at your finger tips. You can look up any (publicly-traded) company or stock symbol and see its performance graphed out with information on how it’s doing right now (15 minute delay). If you decide to take action you can then either add these companies to a watch list or buy stock in them. The watch list will allow you to keep a list of any stocks you’re interested in and track their progress for the exact right time to buy. When you make your trade (buy, sell, sell short or buy to cover), the UpDown site will do a lot of the math for you on the fly. You can keep track of the amount of money at your disposal, how many stocks you can buy (afford or 20% cap), and see your total cost when the trade completes.
Just being on the UpDown site will present you with a lot of information so you can make wise decisions. A stock ticker scrolls across the site showing the S&P 500, NYSE, NASDAQ, and the symbols in your portfolio and watch list. You can also graph performance of your portfolio over time in comparison to the S&P 500.
You can join a Community (like your university), a Group, or a variety of other Networks. You can also create a Group for your friends to collaborate with or compete against each other. They also provide a blog widget so you can embed your portfolio performance on your site and brag to the world.
If you’re looking at a specific company, there is a section of the page where they pull headlines related to that company in with links to the full articles. I’m certainly no fan of Twitter, but UpDown has found a way to integrate it into their site so they can pull information discussing stocks into their system. They then show relevant tweets to a specific company if you’re looking at that company’s stock or you have it in your portfolio. Despite my hatred of Twitter, it’s actually a good way to get a lot of related news and information that’s being discussed across the board. They pick up on tweets that have the key phrase of a dollar sign ($) in front of a known stock symbol. Of course with stock symbols like T for AT&T and S for Sprint, it’s not hard to find some false positives along the way with $s or $t. Of course, you can also have fun with Hitachi, who has the symbol HIT… For example, here’s one at the top of the AT&T stock page (No changes were made on my part, I swear.). A tweet from Jessica:
With UpDown, there is a small chance that you can actually win real money. This is the only way that actual money is anyway related to UpDown. There is no cost or risk to sign up, make trades, or do anything. You can earn real money by winning (earning the most) in contests they hold regularly. Usually there are year-long and individual month contests where you can real money if you come out on top. There are also sponsored contests where advertisers will put up the prize money for individuals to win. If you refer somebody to UpDown and they win a cash prize, you will win 10% of the prize. You can read more about this on their FAQ page. You can also start your own contests for your group of friends or co-workers to see who does the best, but without any real cash incentive.
One of the goals when I was looking for a stock market game was practice and experience for real-world trading and UpDown accommodates nicely with a section dedicated to education. You can learn a whole lot from the terminology to making trades. Watching your portfolio performance can teach you when you make good trades and wise investments. They also have a quick review for many online brokers so when you’re ready to take your investments into the real stock market, you’re ready to go. And since all the money is virtual, if your stocks don’t perform so hot you can reset your account to have no stocks but start off fresh with another virtual million dollars every three months.
Fortunately, it doesn’t look like I’m going to have to do that just yet…
So, what’s the point? If the money is virtual and there’s no risk, why play such a game? Don’t games have an end to them as well? How do I know when I’ve finished the game? Well, to answer those questions in reverse order, this is a non-traditional game. Just like the stock market, it doesn’t just begin at one point and end at another. It’s a very fluid system, some people jump in at the same time others jump out; new stocks are created all the time as well. With using virtual money, it’s easy to simplify the game to no-risk. This can allow you to be riskier than normal or you might just need some competition to make the game more exciting. It’s informative to see what real money would do in this turbulent economy. We could set up a FreewareGenius group and find out which one of us is the top investor. The point of UpDown is that it provides you the means to make trades in the actual stock market with virtual money. If you want to play the long game or take the short investment route, it allows both. If you need more motivation, set up a group with your friends or co-workers to create some real competition. If you need an end date, set up a contest for that group and start investing wisely.
The one downside of UpDown is that it has an annoying page of offers as part of the sign up process. If you’re so inclined, you can choose an offer. Otherwise, click No to all the offers and move onto the fun part of the site. That’s the only encounter of that downside and once you’re signed up, you’re in the clear. The sign-up process takes less than 30 seconds. The system is completely browser-based and uses Flash to render some graphs.
Compatibility: a Flash-enabled browser.
Get a million (virtual) dollars to sign up at UpDown and start trading stocks.