The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. VentureBeat (USA) – iMafia, a social game for iPhone with new virtual goods model. “Social games have taken off on networks like Facebook, and now mobile platforms like the iPhone. One of the newest examples is the iMafia game from PlayMesh, which has found a clever way to integrate virtual goods — a challenge for most iPhone apps. Social games like Mob Wars are already hugely popular online. But Charles Ju, co-founder of PlayMesh in San Francisco, believes the time is right to migrate the concept to the iPhone, which is capable of supporting the same features that draw audiences on the web. The result, iMafia, was released on Friday and already ranks No. 88 in the Apple AppStore.”

2. The Industry Standard (USA) – Virtual worlds getting a dose of reality. “Virtual worlds, at least those looking for funding, are meeting the all-too-real world of the worsening economy, according to a new report. Prepared by Virtual Worlds Management, a provider of market research and events related to the virtual worlds industry, the report says investments in 63 virtual-world related companies declined by 58 percent from 2007 to 2008, shrinking from $1.4 billion to $594 million. This year will see more contraction, Joey Seiler, editor of Virtual World News, told The Standard. ”

3. VentureBeat (USA) – Updated: Game and virtual world fundings top $885 million in 2008. “In 2008, VentureBeat chronicled lots of game and virtual world fundings. Our updated list shows 93 game companies that raised more than $885.6 million worth of venture capital and angel funds. That’s nothing compared to the $4.1 billion that went into U.S. deals for clean tech, according to the National Venture Capital Association. But it’s certainly a big chunk of the $2 billion that went into 407 media and entertainment companies in 2008. It’s probably one of the biggest years for venture investment in video game companies. Many of these companies may shut down because of the recession.”

4. BusinessWeek (USA) – Architect Designs Sony’s Virtual World. “Back in July 2007, architect Kenji Ikemoto got an unexpected call from a contact at Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony’s (SNE) video game unit. Was he interested in designing an online virtual world for the company’s PlayStation 3 gaming console? Ikemoto, 37, was intrigued. The founder of Jota Associates had worked on residential and commercial buildings around Tokyo, but had no experience in video games and no clue why Sony would want to hire a real-world architect for such a project. The offer began to make sense when he met with officials at Sony Computer Entertainment’s office: They wanted to create a virtual cityscape rivaling hip areas of Tokyo.”

5. Web Worker Daily (USA) – Enhance Live Events With Virtual Ones. “I’ve talked about live blogging events as a way to enhance and promote a real world event, literally as it is happening. But lately, I’ve been asked to host virtual world events simultaneous to real world events. Mike Gunderloy and I also included planning and hosting virtual events in our 10 More New Ways to Make Money back in August. The virtual events I hosted recently were both held in Second Life. Clearly, Second Life is not dead.”

6. Ars Techica (USA) – New cafe space coming to PlayStation Home. While the original iteration of Home was very light on content, Sony is attempting to remedy that with the addition of more spaces for users to socialize in. Following the release of Red Bull Island, Sony has announced a new cafe space for the virtual world. Unfortunately, it looks to be just as devoid of content as the rest of Home. A batch of screens for the new space were released on the PlayStation.com message boards, which show off the modern looking cafe area. While no details have been released, the early images don’t show much promise for additional activities.”

7. PC World (USA) – Teleconferencing will be Big in 2008, Gartner Says. “Current economic conditions are set to drive uptake of video telepresence in the next three years, with the travel industry losing out, according to Gartner. The analyst firm predicts that high-definition-based video meeting solutions will replace 2.1 million airline seats annually, costing the travel and hospitality industry US$3.5 billion per year. This is one of the firm’s top 10 predictions for the year.”

8. Times of India (India) – Virtual 3D worlds or Web 3.0? “While the world debates over what Web 3.0 could actually comprise, Sudhir Syal explores the virtual 3D World and realises that it could well be a serious contender. It was in the summer of 2004, during a conversation between internet evangelist Tim O Reilly and MediaLive International that the now inescapable term Web 2.0 was first coined. Just after the dotcom bust, Web 2.0 was meant to signify the resurgence of the World Wide Web and it was to reinforce this that the Web 2.0 Summit was first held. ”

9. Scoop (New Zealand) – Virtual Islam: Peace, Love, and Some Understanding. “In these times of rockets and bombs exploding in Israel and the Gaza Strip, Islamophobia alive and well in the homeland, an uptick in anti-Semitism in Europe, a lively Rapture Index, and the economy still in a shambles, it may be worth your while to step away from these realities and enter conversations that haven’t yet gotten as much attention and support as they may deserve. Dozens in Egypt, Morocco, Italy, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, France, and the United States gather to protest the recent attacks in the Gaza Strip; American University in Cairo launches a Virtual Newsroom with James Glassman, the US Undersecretary of State of Public Diplomacy, in conversation with eight Egyptian political bloggers who covered the 2008 US presidential campaign; people from around the world join in a pilgrimage to Mecca and witness a burning synagogue depicting Kristallnacht.”

10. Massively (USA) – Linden Lab arrivals and departures. “The lineup of staff at Second Life virtual environment developer/operator, Linden Lab changes on a month by month basis. There’s been a bit of motion since the last high-profile hire. Judy Wade, formerly Entrepreneur-in-residence at Kapor Enterprises Inc, has been hired as the vice president of Strategy and Emerging Business. That’s the same Kapor as Mitch Kapor who has a seat on the board of directors as the Lab.”

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