The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. CNET (USA) – American Idol shows how to extend brand with Habbo virtual world alliance. “As reported earlier on Webware, FremantleMedia, co-producer of American Idol, announced it has teamed up with Habbo to create an Idol-branded community within the Habbo virtual world.
Habbo claims 11.5 million unique users on a worldwide basis and more than 121 million characters have been created. VentureBeat reports “about 90 percent of its users are 13 to 18. They spend an average of 45 minutes on the site per visit.”American Idol and its show sponsors will post their signs and merchandise throughout the Habbo environment. They will hold events on stages and use spaces that resemble those in the show.”

2. AppScout (USA) – Girl Ambition: Virtual World for Tweens. “Girlambition.com, a new site for tween girls, debuted yesterday, opening up a new world of online possibilities to the age group. Girl Ambition was created to help both parents and girls, ages 7 to 13, in learning how to safely use the Internet. The site is two-fold: both parents and daughters have their own logins, and access different sites. The main site gives girls a safe place to e-mail, chat, blog, watch videos, and play games. Girl Ambition aims to educate, but also increases self-esteem. The content on the site helps girls raise their self-esteem through fun games and videos. ”

3. Radar Online (USA) – First virtual world school. “A school in North Yorkshire, England has become the first to use the virtual world to educate students. According to the Evening Gazette, students use the Second Life virtual world to populate their ‘Acklam Grange’ classroom with characters which can walk around, interact with classmates, and engage in virtual lessons. (Ed: Am I the only one that finds the ‘first’ claim to be nonsensical to the extreme?)

4. Massively (USA) – Openspaces: Linden Lab short on answers. “The fifth of January has come and gone, and the Second Life Openspaces 2.0 product has passed into history, to be replaced with the lower-value Openspaces 4.0 and Homesteads 1.0 products. In the couple of months since the initial announcement, we’ve been inundated with reader-requests asking us to get some sort of explanation of the reasoning from Linden Lab, and render it into comprehensible form. Unfortunately, despite repeated promises over the last ten weeks or so to provide us with that information, Linden Lab has been unable to actually provide us with any explanation or reasoning behind the changes in pricing and specification.”

5. Softpedia (Romania) – IBM Thinks World of Warcraft Players Make Good Employees. “Online games are starting to become one of the most popular types of entertainment out there. We all play or have played various online titles like MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) in order to relax and enjoy ourselves, but it seems that some people become very addicted to them and start neglecting real-life tasks in favor of the virtual ones. This trend was observed by various employers across the United States, which have revealed that companies are now starting to dislike job applicants who reveal that they play various online games, especially World of Warcraft, one of the most popular MMORPGs out there, with over 11,5 million subscribers every month. They reveal that, although the game does teach you leadership skills, it becomes very distractive and, as such, people can’t really focus on their jobs.”

6. Innovations Report (Germany) – Virtual World users to get their own dedicated search engine. “The Meta-Mole, created by the Centre for Design in the Digital Economy (D-LAB) based within the University’s Institute of Digital Innovation, will ultimately be a dedicated searchable online resource for the 350 plus virtual worlds currently existing on the Internet. Philip McClenaghan, Deputy Director of D-LAB explains: “We were analysing virtual world platforms and realised that there doesn’t appear to be a comprehensive service offering to list and compare key data for major 2D and 3D environments. This surprised us considering the current popularity of virtual worlds. We intend to fill the gap with the Meta-Mole.”

7. Ars Technica (USA) – Online gamers in China must soon register with real names. “The addictive nature of online gaming has been proven, at least anecdotally, time and time again. While not everyone who jumps into the digital realms of World of Warcraft or the various other massively-multiplayer online role-playing games is liable to get endlessly sucked in, those with addictive personalities certainly run the risk. In fact, in the East, the problem has gotten so severe that the government of China will soon require MMO players to register their real names when creating online accounts as an anti-addiction measure.”

8. The Daily Mail (UK) – What happened when we took Mandy’s avatar to Second Life. “Lord Mandelson is creating an alter ego on a virtual reality website to drum up support for Labour…but the Mail has beaten him to it. What WILL Gordon say about that tattoo? Peter Mandelson, it can be said with some confidence, is the sort of chap who always has the right clothes for every occasion. Deck shoes, casual slacks and a blazer for swapping small talk with Russian billionaires on board a yacht in the Med. How about something fur-trimmed to impress the crowds down at the House of Lords? You can bet your bottom dollar that Baron Mandelson of Foy in the county of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the county of Durham has them all. ”

9. Digital Journal (Canada) – Sexy Job on Internet, Prostitute as Avatar. “Second Life is one of those Internet sites that allows people to become anyone or anything they want. On this particular site an individual can assume a new identity, a dream image, as a way of escaping perhaps a humdrum world or becoming a fantasy that has been wished for. This particular transformation to prostitute on “Second Life” is certainly creative. But will it pay like the real thing? ”

10. WebCPA (USA) – Taxing Virtual Worlds. “The IRS could start taxing virtual environments like Second Life and World of Warcraft to get a cut of the real dollars that are spent on potions, armor and weapons in the online gaming world. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson suggested the IRS should proactively look into issuing guidance for taxpayers who are already concerned the taxman might one day audit these transactions.”

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