The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Gamasutra – SGS Panel: Who’s Paying And Why In Virtual Worlds. “At the ongoing Social Gaming Summit in San Francisco, a panel of virtual world execs representing companies like NeoPets, K2, and Nexon got to the heart of why casual virtual worlds were blooming, how developers can make money off of free to play games, and what percentage of players might actually pay. Virtual World News editor and moderator Joey Seiler asked the panel why the casual MMO trend was happening now. Responded K2 marketing VP Patrick Ford, “As a consumer, I have a bookshelf full of $40-60 games that were cracked open once or twice and maybe put back and I didn’t get a good experience from it… but when my son asks me for $5 for a premium package [in an online game], I know it’s money well spent.”

2. Network World – Two online virtual worlds. “In the marketplace of virtual online worlds the 800 pound gorilla is, without doubt, Second Life. But they don’t own the market as much as feature as the poster child. The consequence of that is a small crowd of wannabe’s who have their sights on taking a shot at some kind of market ownership. Given Second Life’s debatable success why would these upstarts care? Simple, because the potential market is enormous. This year (according to eMarketer’s “Kids and Teens: Virtual Worlds Open New Universe”) just looking at the pre-teen and teen market some 12 million children and teens will visit virtual worlds — that’s 34% of all Internet users from 3 to 17 years of age — and the figures are projected to keep on growing rising to 53% of all Internet users in that age bracket by 2011 (that’s over 20 million of them!).”

3. Adweek – Movie Studios Expand Into Virtual Web Worlds. “With fewer bodies in movie theaters and consumers migrating en masse to digital formats, Hollywood studios are understandably keen to reach their market in new, hopefully more effective ways. Although virtual worlds have a spotty record so far, some studios clearly see great potential in these environments for both promotion and distribution of their output. In April, Viacom’s Paramount Digital Entertainment signed a partnership agreement with Makena Technologies, making thousands of movie clips from the Paramount movie library available on There.com, an online virtual world. Visitors who purchase the clips can use them to communicate with others by having their avatar “speak” lines from movies while the actual clip plays in a small window. Links allow users to purchase DVDs of the featured movies.”

4. MPOGD.com – ION 2008 – Discussing Entropia Universe with John K. Bates. “magine if you could leave this world behind and start a new life on a foreign planet. MMOs give players the chance to explore new worlds and lands all the time, but rarely will the virtual wealth accumulated in-game ever amount to actual monetary wealth in the real world. Entropia Universe, however, is one game changing that aspect of MMOs, allowing players the opportunity to exchange in-game currency for the real deal. I talked with John K. Bates – Business Development and Strategic Marketing with Mindark/Entropia Universe – at this year’s ION game conference to learn more about the game and how players are turning virtual businesses into real life profits.”

5. Information Week – Second Life Artist Fights Real-Life Deportation. “A Second Life artist who goes by the name “Eshi Otawara” faces real-life deportation due to the so-called “widow’s penalty” in immigration law. The artist, whose real-life name is Irena Morris, is a Croatian immigrant who lives in Florida. Her American husband died suddenly, when they’d been married less than two years, while her application for residency was in progress. According to U.S. immigration law, the application is automatically rejected once the American spouse dies. Morris received formal notification from U.S. immigration authorities last week that her application was terminated, and she’s ready to be deported from the U.S. at any moment.”

6. The Industry Standard – Sun creates virtual worlds for businesses, but graphics lag. “t’s called Project Wonderland and it’s a prototype for a virtual environment where business teams can meet and interact, but the environments so far lack polish and are graphically sparse. The project aims to allow team members using multiple forms of communication to collaborate through video conferencing, call-ins, and online avatars.”

7. The Guardian (UK) – Second Life: Disability charity sets up virtual advice service. “A charity that helps the parents of disabled children contact each other and access services has set up an office in the virtual world of Second Life. The charity, Contact a Family, is using government funding to create the digital office to support its work giving parents information and mutual support.”

8. Web in France Magazine – Executive recruitment in France arrives on Second Life, as the virtual world attracts more real businesses. “Second Life started as 64 acres of virtual real estate in cyberspace. Today, Second Life’s 3D digital world is now the “size” of a small city, where the alter egos of its more than 3 million members, called avatars, interact, socialize at parties, buy and sell virtual goods and run businesses. Members of Second Life, as the name suggests, design a whole parallel universe for themselves where they can have the homes, lifestyles– and especially the careers — that they have always wanted.”

9. CNET – EMI hires ‘Second Life’ co-founder. “Strugging record label EMI Group continues to turn to the technology sector for leadership as it attempts to navigate the Digital Age. The music label hired Cory Ondrejka, one of the founders of Linden Lab’s virtual world, Second Life. Ondrejka was named senior vice president of digital strategy, EMI said in a statement. The hiring comes two months after EMI hired Douglas Merrill, Google’s former chief information officer. Ondrejka left Linden Labs in December. Ondrejka helped design “big parts” of Second Life.”

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