The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Mashable (USA) – New Facebook App Monitors Your Child’s Gaming Behaviors. “arents wishing to follow along as their children play games online have a new friend in Piggyback, a recently launched Facebook application designed for such purposes. Piggyback, built by newly launched startup Media Chaperone, is a free Facebook application for parents who want to monitor in real time their children’s online social and gaming activities from their Facebook profiles.”

2. Inside Social Games (USA) – How Design Choices Impact Virtual Goods Purchases in Games. “Only two years ago, I was attending a conference on virtual worlds and people were discussing whether or not microtransactions would be a viable business model. Many people were skeptical about whether the success of microtransactions in Asia would translate to North American users. Now, there seems to be less talk about whether or not microtransactions work, and more talk about what makes them work. Industry stats show that yes, people are spending real money on social games. That said, however, the percentage of players who actually spend money is extremely small. From a research standpoint, it has been difficult to find out the characteristics of these spenders because of the difficulty in getting enough people to provide a sample size large enough to derive results that we could generalize.”

3. VentureBeat (USA) – Nexon Invests In Spanish Virtual World Developer BoomBang Games. “South Korea’s Nexon wants to be a bigger player on the global gaming stage. Today, the company announced it has made an investment in Spanish game studio BoomBang Games. Nexon acquired 32 percent of the shares of BoomBang, a Flash game developer based in Barcelona. Nexon’s goal is to reinforce its line-up of light community games and to strengthen its business in Latin America, where, of course, Spanish is a popular language. BoomBang Games was founded in 2004 by chief executive Luis Oses and Max Bevilacqua.”

4. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (USA) – Uncharted Realms. “In a virtual world such as Second Life where participants exchange virtual cash in transactions adding up to billions in the real world … where does a citizen go for virtual justice? Just one of the many questions explored in a new book by Rutgers law professor Greg Lastowka, “Virtual Justice: The New Laws of Online Worlds.” The book debuts less than a month after Oliver Chiang’s report at Forbes’ SelectStart blog that sector analysts predict the exchange of virtual goods and services will pass the $2 billion mark next year … which would represent a doubling of the realm’s cash activity within two years.”

5. Birmingham Post (UK) – Daden creates 3D lab for University of Leicester. “A Birmingham firm which specialises in building virtual worlds has won a contract to create a 3D laboratory to help students learn to screen for inherited genetic disease. Birmingham Science Park-based Daden is creating the virtual lab to help students at the University of Leicester as part of a project addressing the limitations of teaching in working laboratories. These include the pressures of time and the costs of handling real equipment and working together with peers, lecturers and demonstrations.”

6. Hypergrid Business (Hong Kong) – Education Discounts in Second Life: Loss or gain? “I hate that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach when I know something has been lost that I care about. After my initial shock of hearing that Linden Labs was dropping education discounts, I immediately communicated with colleagues (most of whom I have never met in person) about “what will we do?” Hand wringing. Then during the day today, Maria Korolov, from Trombly International, asked me a simple question in an email — “Do you think the Lindens are doing the right thing here?” – and that question ignited a spark that I think will grow like a California brushfire. That is simply because it was clear to me that it didn’t matter – this was no longer about Linden Lab. Yes, I am very disappointed that I will have to front-up to the University and tell them I have invested precious capital budget in a failed project.”

7. Search Engine Watch (USA) – Losing the Plot In Second Life? A Tinfoil Hat Theory About Linden Labs. “So it seems the Powers That Be here at SearchEngineWatch (SEW) have decided to lose their collective sanity long enough to give me a permanent bit of bandwidth to write about Second Life/Virtual Worlds once a week. But any discussion starts with a perspective, and I think it’s only fair that I deliver mine, up front, so there’s no mistaking it: For the most part, my Second Life is a job. I’m phrasing it that way because there’s been a longstanding philosophical debate about what Second Life is. Usually that gets divided into binary camps of game/not game, and the debate can get very heated and ugly. My view is a little broader- it is whatever it is for you. Ultimately, I think it’s a blank canvas.”

8. Blast Magazine (USA) – Panasonic announces new handheld. “Do you long for your virtual worlds when at work? Do you wish you were riding your trusty mount when you’re really slumming it on the city bus? Panasonic has something they’d like to show you. The long rumored, and finally unveiled Jungle has finally been unveiled by Panasonic and grants access to MMOs and other online titles to gamers on the go. Featuring a few QWERTY keyboard, shoulder buttons, a touch screen display, HDMI port and a D-pad, The Jungle looks to take on handheld kings like the iPhone and the Nintendo’s DS…oh, and the PSP too…I guess.”

9. VentureBeat (USA) – Nukotoys aims to be Silicon Valley’s toy company. “Toys and electronics are still in search of a happy marriage. Nukotoys believes it has the answer with toys and games that merge virtual and real world activities. The startup is coming out of stealth mode today in the hopes of becoming Silicon Valley’s toy company. The San Francisco company is announcing a number of interconnected toys that combine online virtual world games and collectible cards that can be scanned by computers. The company will also build toy-game products based on two major brands: the Ology books for children (such as Dragonology) and Animal Planet. And in December, PBS Kids will launch an online game built by Nukotoys; the 3D educational adventure game will teach kids reading.”

10. Gamasutra (USA) – Feature: The Death Of Linearity? “Tale of Tales’ Michael Samyn (The Path) describes how narrative linearity got tangled up in the game medium, and suggests how leaving it behind will allow a true art form to emerge. Calling “the joys of linearity… beyond dispute”, Samyn says that it’s no surprise linear storytelling became a function of games early in the medium. “We love the tension that comes with a carefully constructed story arc. From Greek theater through medieval fairy tales and printed novels to stereoscopic high definition cinema, humankind has enjoyed storytelling for thousands of years,” he observes. “As we perfected the presentation of our creations, the backbone of our designs shifted from the linearity of competitive gameplay to the linearity of the narrative arc. Our characters and worlds simply demanded this,” writes Samyn.”

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