The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. The Hollywood Reporter (USA) – Nick splits games, virtual worlds. “MTV Networks’ Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group said Tuesday that it has formed separate divisions focused on gaming and virtual worlds and has promoted executives from within the Viacom-owned company to run the new groups.”

2. BusinessWeek (USA) – What Do Teens Want? “Using its online community, Habbo, Sulake surveyed some 58,000 teenagers to compile marketing data covering cosmetics to mobile-phone preferences. Nearly 59,000 captive teens might seem like every parent’s worst nightmare. But for Helsinki (Finland)-based Sulake, such a group provided a pain-free way to gain valuable insight into what “kids these days” really care about. Pain-free because Sulake runs Habbo, the nine-year-old virtual world that as of early June had some 100 million avatars, 9.5 million of them active on the site each month. And because Sulake could use the world as a platform to question the teens—virtually. Habbo’s second Global Youth Survey features the results of a two-month-long poll conducted at the end of last year, which surveyed 58,486 teens in 31 countries. The findings were recently published in a 255-page report targeted at companies looking to market to the lucrative demographic.”

3. Financial Times (UK) – Habbo hits a hundred million teen avatars. “The most financially successful virtual worlds are not 3D and sophisticated, but flat and appealing to younger audiences.
Think Neopets, Webkinz, Club Penguin and Runescape, not Second Life. Habbo, whose graphics are reminiscent of the Code Monkeys cartoon and 8-bit 80s video games, announced today that its 100-millionth avatar had been created.”

4. Computerworld (USA) – Cisco chief lauds coming virtual-world technology. “Cisco Systems Inc. CEO John Chambers today appeared at a virtual press conference in Second Life, where he predicted that virtual world technologies will eventually “explode” in terms of business usage and their impact.
Chambers, whose avatar was dressed in a business suit, disagreed with some recent expert opinions and blogs that virtual world designers and operators are facing a downturn in businesses that are interested in starting up virtual world meeting rooms or product demonstrations in Second Life and other platforms.”

5. Computing SA (South Africa) – Three steps to encourage corporate investment in virtual worlds. “Many business leaders are sceptical of investing in virtual worlds because of the continuing lack of clarity regarding their proven benefits, but there are steps IT leaders can take to encourage corporate investment, according to Gartner. Haphazard investments in poorly planned virtual world projects will continue to cause funding difficulties in some instances, but, once the benefits have been proved, many organisations find that virtual worlds enhance casual social interactions inside the distributed enterprise, which can lead to innovation and produce competitive advantage.”

6. TechCrunch – RocketOn Layers A Virtual World Onto The Web. “Last February we hinted at South San Francisco startup Rocketon’s plan to release a virtual world that spanned the web. At the time, it appeared as though the company was pursuing an embeddable widget strategy. But instead of integrating virtual worlds into webpages, it has actually placed one on top of them so that avatars can roam the web just as you currently surf it. Comparisons can be drawn to both Weblin and PMOG. Whereas Weblin places a little avatar on the bottom of your browser that can be used to chat with other visitors to a webpage, PMOG turns web surfing into a game with mine laying and loot plundering.”

7. Pocket Gamer (UK) – Disney virtual world gets a mobile game spin-off. “One of the trends we’re keen on following in the coming months is cross-platform gaming, and specifically the plans of PC-based massively multiplayer online games and web-based virtual worlds to launch mobile elements.
Yesterday’s report on Blizzard Entertainment’s mobile recruitment shows the activity in this area, but an article in the New York Times about Disney has also made us prick up our ears.”

8. The Industry Standard (USA) – Second Life roiled by by Linden Lab’s DMCA policies. “It seems that he Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is the topic du jour. From the current AP flap to the music industry, intellectual property and the legal issues that surround it are being debated everywhere, including the virtual worlds. Second Life is having its own issues with DMCA enforcement as well. Piracy in the virtual world is a hotly contested issue made all the more difficult because every object in a virtual world can be subject to copyright. Our own Ian Lamont had noted the issue that many Second Life content creators had with piracy concerns a year ago, and apparently, residents still have those same concerns about Linden Lab enforcement.”

9. iTWire (Australia) – Second Life announces the world’s biggest virtual party. “It hardly seems possible, but the immersive 3D virtual fantasy world of Second Life is 5 years old. To celebrate, Linden Lab is staging a Virtual World’s Fair which might just be the biggest birthday party never held. It was on June 23rd 2003 that the 3D world inhabited by avatars known as Second Life emerged from the shadows of Beta testing and opened its doors to an awaiting public. To celebrate this 5th birthday, the company behind the virtual phenomena has announced an ambitious two week long party which will run until July 7th.”

10. Silicon Valley Insider (USA) – If Second Life Is Over, Someone Needs To Tell Cisco (CSCO). “Conventional wisdom is that Second Life is an overhyped ghost town that’s wasted many of corporate America’s marketing dollars. But no one seems to have told the folks at Cisco (CSCO), which has maintained a steady presence in Linden Lab’s (SAI #11) virtual world.”

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