The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Digital Spy (UK) – Feature: No Place Like Home. “icture the scene: you boot up the PlayStation 3 to arrive in a plaza brimming with people: avatars sculpted to pixel perfection, ripe with insightful conversation. Spotting your friends’ avatars in the distance, you take to the arcade, play a few frames of pool then seamlessly launch into a game of your choice, and later, spruce up your apartment with your game trophies for everyone to see.”

2. MSNBC (USA) – Disney’s Penguin spreads its wings globally. “Every kid in Brazil will have an igloo to live in if the Walt Disney Co. has its way. The Mouse House isn’t trying to bring a new Ice Age to the biggest country in South America; the igloo is a digital fixture of Club Penguin, a virtual world for which Disney paid $350 million 18 months ago, a deal that could cost another $350 million if the property hits performance targets. Its first non-English-language version, operating out of Sao Paulo, launched in November.”

3. Fox News (USA) – Gaza Conflict Moves to Virtual World. “A shadow war between pro-Israeli and pro-Hamas forces is taking place on the Internet — and it is getting fierce. If you’re one of millions of Americans who use social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter or participate in virtual worlds like “Second Life,” don’t be surprised if you get sucked into a war thousands of miles away in Gaza.”

4. VideoGamer.com (UK) – EA finds a new Home on PS3. “EA has announced its initial plans for the PlayStation Home Beta on PlayStation 3, beginning the spring launch of the EA Sports Complex within the Home virtual world. “We’re proud to support the PlayStation Home Beta with a very robust offering from EA Sports,” said Peter Moore, president of EA Sports. “As part of our continued commitment to the connected experience and the digitisation of our business, the EA Sports Complex is a rich new online environment that presents a compelling and immersive social gaming experience for the global sports audience.”

5. VentureBeat (USA) – CES: Mattel revamps web sites and launches digital toys. “Digital toys and web sites for kids have had a mixed history. But the future is so full of techno-savvy kids that toy makers are finding they have no choice but to move into the digital realm by providing better online entertainment as well as digital toys in the physical world.”

6. CNET (USA) – MindArk creates ‘Entropia Universe’ planet as independent company. “MindArk, the developer of the science fiction-based virtual world, Entropia Universe, has announced that it is spinning off the functional game side of its business into a separate company. Known as First Planet Company, the new entity will be a stand-alone company that will run the actual virtual world, which it is calling Planet Calypso. MindArk will continue to operate the platform side of its business, focusing on tools that it can make available to partners looking for a custom virtual world.”

7. Massively (USA) – Does virtual learning have to be dreadful? “Australia’s School of the Air programs have been among the most lauded distance education schemes for more than 50 years. In response to a scattered population in a less than hospitable environment and with a lack of nearby population centers and facilities, the School of the Air provided education for isolated children. The original School of the Air was opened in 1951, but had been broadcasting school lessons from the Royal Flying Doctor Service for some years prior to that. The School of the Air programs still operate today, as there are students living more than 800 kilometres (more than 500 miles) away from the nearest school.”

8. Network World (USA) – Lenovo buys into Nortel virtual shopping app. “Nortel this week said it landed PC maker Lenovo as a customer for its virtual world business application. The win comes a little over a year after Nortel announced incubation efforts to develop web.alive, a collaborative, browser-based application for enterprises that provides an interactive 3D experience with voice, graphics and avatars. Web.alive is designed to facilitate internal collaboration and customer interactions over the Web and in real time.”

9. Silicon Valley Insider (USA) – Is Second Life An Acquisition Target? No “When Cory Ondrejka talks about Second Life, we listen: The former Linden Lab CTO built a huge swath of Second Life’s technology single-handed, until he was fired after a falling out with Second Life founder Philip Rosedale, ending up at EMI Music. So when Cory (who likely still has a stake in Linden) said among his other “predictions for 2009” that Second Life would be acquired, virtual worlds-loving corners of the blogosphere lit up. Seems to us Cory still succumbs to the classic dot-com delusion: Saying “we’re awesome and deserve to be rich!” rather than asking “who might be interested in buying our service and what might they pay?”

10. Kotaku (USA) – Second-Life Hooker Bares All. “We have street prostitution here in Italy, and I have always wanted to be one of them,” says “Palela Anderson,” who is a high priced escort in Second Life. “As a teenager I would watch these sexy women walking the streets, waiting for the cars to stop, teasing the guys, and then hopping in and getting out sometime later,” she says in an interview posted to IGN’s Green Pixels. “I’m not sure why I find it such a turn-on. I think it’s because when a man will pay to have you, you know he really desires you. It’s proof that you’re really wanted.”

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