Saturday, January 12, 2008

Neoptes Does The Plush Toy Thing ... "Who Isn't?"

People may talk about World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Lord of the Rings Online and Star Wars Galaxies, but flying under many hardcore gamers' radar is another MMO, one whose community is 100 million strong and still growing. Oh, and it's shedding, too. Neopets is going on 12 years of online play, and in February it will release its first plushie tie-in for kids: the Neopets Limited Edition Plushie Series. With a community of Neopet owners that numbers more than 100 million, we know you love your Neopets!

Forrester on Virtual Worlds for Work

January 7, 2008
Getting Real Work Done In Virtual Worlds
by Erica Driver, Paul Jackson
From the Forrester site
Virtual worlds like Second Life,, and more business-focused offerings are on the brink of becoming valuable work tools. Major companies and public-sector organizations — such as BP, IBM, Intel, and the US Army — are investing heavily in virtual world technologies. But it's still early, pioneering days. You've practically got to be a gamer to use most of these tools — setup can be arduous, navigating in a 3-D environment takes practice, and processing and bandwidth requirements remain high. But within five years, the 3-D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today. Information and knowledge management professionals should begin to investigate and experiment with virtual worlds. Use them to try to replicate the experience of working physically alongside others; allow people to work with and share digital 3-D models of physical or theoretical objects; and make remote training and counseling more realistic by incorporating nonverbal communication into same-time, different-place interactions.

Virtual worlds will soon be as important as Web to companies
Forrester says 3-D Internet will vastly improve collaboration and corporate training
January 9, 2008 from Computerworld
While virtual worlds like Second Life have come under fire for failing to provide enough value to businesses with established storefront operations, a new Forrester Research Inc. report argues that the 3-D Internet will be as important to companies in five years as the Web is today. The "Getting Work Done in Virtual Worlds" report released by the IT research firm this week concludes that executives should begin investigating and experimenting with virtual worlds soon because of their promise for remote collaboration, training and the ability to build and share 3-D models. The report said that today's collaboration tools offer far more limited benefits to companies. For example, the inability to see the gestures of fellow meeting goers causes problems for attendees in different offices, the report noted. In a virtual world, people can have their name, job title and business unit associated with an avatar that can attend meetings and have access to virtual buildings, rooms, equipment and people, Forrester said. The avatar is controlled by information in an enterprise directory and access control system, it said.

"You can easily direct your avatar to express gestures and emotions … plus you can leave behind real-world unpleasantness such as the poor heat in your cubicle while your next door neighbor is burning or the loud guy talking the phone next to you," according to the report. "[In meetings] you always know who is talking and who's anxious to jump into conversation because they are waving their hand or jumping up and down in the corner of the room. "In a virtual meeting room, you can see who is present, and more importantly, who is multi-tasking, who has raised a hand or who has been away from their keyboard so long that their avatar has fallen asleep," the report said.

Sun's Virtual World "Project Wonderland"

Excellent look at Sun's Virtual World by CIO Magazine;
Inside Sun's Virtual World for Internal Collaboration - C.G. Lynch, CIO January 11, 2008 "During the past couple of years, virtual worlds have received a lot of media attention, especially Second Life, the virtual environment created by Linden Lab that 1.3 million people actively use to play games, do business and live alter egos via their avatar stand-ins. But when Sun Microsystems thought about how it could use a virtual world to improve internal collaboration and facilitate social interactions among its 33,000 employees, spread out across offices around the world and in numerous home telecommuting sites, it began to think about building its own virtual world behind the firewall. Thus, Project Wonderland was born. Started about a year ago as a collaborative effort between Sun and the open-source community, Wonderland is a virtual, 3-D website that allows people to build virtual worlds based on Java programming. Sun’s internal world, MPK20, was built on this platform and started in June 2007. The name stems from the company’s Menlo Park, Calif., corporate campus, which has 19 buildings (MPK1 to MPK19), making MPK20 the virtual world extension. While the group building and developing MPK20 spends the most time in it, Sun hopes to start bringing in more user groups in the coming months.’s C.G. Lynch visited Sun’s labs in Burlington, Mass., to see MPK20 for his own eyes and talked with Nicole Yankelovich, who works as the primary investigator at the company’s collaborative environments group. What led Sun to start building a virtual world for its employees? Was there a tipping point that spurred it?

Nicole Yankelovich: About a year ago, we informally did a study by interviewing a bunch of our employees who work from home. Meanwhile, we tracked the statistics of how many people badge into our facilities each day. We found that many people worked from home full time, and some at least part time. This isn’t bad. [Without the commute] they often work longer hours and are very productive. Meanwhile, we also have a lot of people traveling to visit with our customers.

In the end, what we found was on any given day, more than half of our employees are working remotely. There are a lot of good benefits of a distributed workforce, but there are also some drawbacks. What they’re missing is the social interaction. We know, from business literature, that social interaction is very key to good business outcomes. You need to be able to trust people in order to get work done effectively or negotiate in business. Virtual worlds seemed like a great opportunity to address this problem.

What makes virtual worlds more compelling for that social interaction than existing technologies, such as phone and video conference?

Up until now, Sun, like most companies, has used audio conferencing. We’ve used a little bit of video conferencing too, but a lot people working at home don’t have video because that’s their personal space. So we mostly use audio conferences. The problem with this is we’re not getting the social interaction and the informal brainstorming you’d get in person. We figured [we] can create a virtual world where you can begin to re-create that social interaction, and then we could really create a wonderful place to bounce ideas off each other, both as a group or just between two people.

The consumer virtual worlds, like Second Life, have seen pretty significant user adoption. With that comes the need to scale. When you think about Sun's virtual world and getting thousands of employees on it, how will you plan for scale?

Second Life and other online games use this process called sharding. This means pieces of the virtual world are hosted on specific servers. So servers will have their capacity, and when it fills up, it fills up. For example, if a bunch of people decide to visit an island in Second Life, and that island begins to fill up with avatars, so does the server assigned to it. Meanwhile, you have all of these other unused servers. This is a huge problem in almost all the multiplayer games.

So at Sun we decided we’d use Darkstar, our game server. It’s a scalable platform that doesn’t do sharding. Instead, the [virtual world] developers write their applications as if they’re on one giant server. Then the underpinnings of the Darkstar servers allocate resources as they're needed. If one server starts to fill up and get near capacity, it goes to another one.

When will something like this become available for large enterprises?

Right now, Project Wonderland is open source and people are free to use it. But this whole project has been more popular with people initially than we thought it might be. So we have started to work with business development to see what Sun could do for customers. Maybe we could provide hosted services, or even manage the service (and server) for them behind the firewall. There are a lot of different models to explore. But for right now, we want to get more people using it here internally.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

USB Pay - Cool!

Shinhan Card rolled out Korea’s first ever USB type credit card on December 27. The USB credit card provides the online and contactless payment function and works the post-paid transportation card as well. The built-in IC chip includes the public authorization and the internet credit payment programs. During the online payment, users do not need to insert the credit card number. Rather, they can pay by connecting the USB to the slot. At the franchise stores with the IC card reader, it enables the no-touch payment. The card also supports the information inquiry and the automatic log-in service using the public authorization and the built-in internet payment programs. However, it is limited for users to delete or save data so that the USB itself cannot be used as a portable storage device. Shinhan Card plans to issue the existing plastic credit card, Shinhan Love Card, as well until the IC chip readers become popular among the franchise stores. The company said, “It provides the online and contactless payment functions. And the card itself can be an accessory as well. We think those young customers familiar with the online and mobile payment will prefer the USB type credit card.”

California Lawyers on Virtual World Law

California Lawyer Magazine has been putting together a piece on law in virtual worlds for a little while, including some research at Virtual Worlds Fall 2007. It's a good rundown on a lot of the legal and government activities in virtual worlds and offers a lot of background for lawyers not already involved in virtual worlds as well as an exhortation to get involved. Or, as Beth Simone Noveck, a professor at New York Law School, put it "People are appearing with new visual identities and likenesses, trademarked brands are appearing in virtual shop windows, and ownership of avatars [is] being settled in divorce and probate proceedings. The law is having to grapple with questions that are similar to, but not all the same as, what we've confronted in two-dimensional cyberspace." Read the full article here]

Gaia Trawls Bebo

Gaia Online received a burst of funding from Time Warner after an investment from Sony just last month. Both Sony and Time Warner's Warner Bros. have also signed deals to distribute their film catalogs to Gaia's 3 million monthly users. Apparently a large part of those users are coming from social networking site Bebo, which claims 40 million users. Gaia launched its Gaia OMG app on Bebo last month. The social networking app, which allows basic functionality in the virtual world has gone from Gaia's 430th largest traffic referrer to in the virtual world's top 10.

Project Outback Kaput

Outback Online, the virtual world project from Yoick, is finished according to a post on Yoick CEO Rand Leeb-du Toit's blog where he mentioned "the demise of the virtual world I was working on." In February it was reported on the stealth mode virtual world based on peer-to-peer technology and aimed at teenagers. Then in May sources reported that Warb, who had been providing the front end, would be splitting off to go in its own direction, now focusing on user-created virtual worlds. At that time we were told by sources close to the company that it was having trouble raising funding. "Partly because of the dynamic nature of the space…there have been some fundamental shifts over the Summer of Facebook, hugely positive trends that have validated my decision not to continue with Project Outback," explained Leeb-du Toit.

Virtual World Payments "Paynova and Entropia Expand Cooperation"

Paynova, an Internet payment service, has been in Entropia since 2004, allowing users to use Paynova both in the virtual world and the real world. Now Paynova is expanding in Entropia to allow users more payment options, including debit card, Internet bank and a number of local payment methods in Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany. Entropia will also implement Paynova's one2one service, which allows users to use the same transaction service for subscriptions or microtransactions. "We have worked hard on preparing our new offer for online gaming. The payment service has only been in place a short time, and it is, therefore, particularly valuable to be able to implement it fully with a significant player within the segment. We view the expanded cooperation with MindArk as proof of the competitiveness of our new payment service and as an important basis for continued success in the growing online gaming segment," said Karl Alberts, Marketing Manager at Paynova.

Gartner's Take on Virtual Worlds and Payments

"All consumers pay between three to five percent more on goods purely to fund payment systems," said Gartner vice president Andy Kyte at the Gartner Symposium last week.
This is not only due to the money that credit and debit card systems cost retailers, it also comes from processing the cash in everyone's pockets. "Cash processing is unbelievably expensive," said Kyte. Singapore long ago decided it was too expensive to process cash, according to Kyte. In 1998, the Board of Commissioners of Currency in Singapore proposed to create an electronic currency — Singapore Electronic Legal Tender (Selt) — which Kyte said will go live at the end of next year. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's 2002 publication The Future of Money, Selt will be issued in Singaporean dollars. Banks could then draw Selt from the Board of Commissioners of Currency and load it onto their computers.

Any person requiring money could then draw electronic funds onto devices including mobile phones or smartcards. Last year, Singapore unveiled a standard — Contactless e-Purse Application (Cepas) — which allows merchants to only have one system to deal with multiple cards. The implications for the rest of the world are huge, said Kyte: "Lots of countries in the world are looking very, very closely at what is happening in Singapore." E-payments also cost both shoppers and retailers money, Kyte said, but the amounts are typically lower than existing payment systems. The e-payment push is not only coming from the price of payment processing: virtual worlds are contributing to the drive to use electronic currencies, such as Second Life's Linden Dollar, with some unwanted consequences. Virtual worlds with e-currencies create phenomenal opportunities for money laundering and tax evasion, said Kyte. "Most of the issues [of electronic money] are around the idea of security," said Kyte. Once this is worked out, it will only be a matter of convincing consumers of the technology. Consumers are wary of currencies like Linden Dollars because they are unsure of their permanence, Kyte said. He likened the current e-money situation to a "primal soup" — a lot of ideas floating around that will eventually consolidate into the type of services consumers want to use. Banks, he said, are likely to be the losers unless they jump on the trend. "Smart banks will buy into it and overwhelm," he said, advising banks to "go and get a few teenagers" and run a research project.


Smart2PayTM is a Payment Service Provider specializing in internet payments since 2002. They have an HQ in Amsterdam and strategic alliances with partners in the US, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Romania and Germany. Good source of state of the art payment solutions for internet merchants.


Good swiss know-how for payment processing.

Ogone's Payment Network

This Belgian company has an excellent system and network.

Just Jealous?

Valleywag Duudes are at it again with their constant unfair SL-bashing. While admittedly hilarious, Paymentguy cannot wonder if these Bloggers at "Silicon Valley's Gossip Tech Rag" are just plain jealous. Even San Francisco's mayor Gavin Newsom raves about SL and how it mirrors his home city; "Gavin Newsom, San Francisco's freshly reelected god-mayor, descended into the bowels of Second Life for a quaint fireside chat with Philip Rosedale, CEO of Linden Lab. What lofty matters could a city mayor and the chieftain of a seamy virtual world possibly have to discuss? Why, the parallels between the "two famously diverse and tech-savvy communities with global profiles," of course. As Newsom said during their discourse, "We're all geeks." But the comparisons don't stop there. San Francisco is exactly like Second Life.

A surfeit of self-expression: San Francisco may not have furries actively roaming its streets, but you'd be hard pressed to find another community so accepting of trannies, facial piercings, fauxhawks, and assless chaps. Oh wait -- this June, San Francisco will have furries actively roaming its streets. See? Just like Second Life.

Toleration for public sex: Second Life has always been plagued by a seedy, fornicating underbelly. San Franciscans simply need visit SoMa.

City of lost souls: Anyone who visits San Francisco's Civic Center has witnessed the crazies, drug addicts, alcoholics and other afflicted. On Second Life, they just don't stink.

Statistical self-delusion: San Franciscans believe they're the center of the universe, though the city they live in isn't even the largest in the Bay Area. The same can be said of Second Lifers, who can't believe that the other 99.7 percent of the world doesn't want to join their party.

A plague of wantrepreneurs: When Anshe Chung became the first Second Life millionaire, she started a gold rush, though one mostly without the gold. People have flocked to the virtual world in the hopes of striking it rich, just as countless misguided startuppers race to South Park in hopes of running into a venture capitalist.

A ghost town much of the time: With a population of 744,000, it's hard to argue that San Francisco is a big empty, but if you've tried to find a restaurant open after 10 p.m., you might start to believe it. Much like Second Life, whose residents are all too fleeting in their visits.

A sense of impending doom: There's no escaping it. Some day all those Second Lifers will wake up from their bad dream and realize the whole experience is just some terrible pyramid scheme. It will crumble into ruin -- just like San Francisco after the Big One strikes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Pretty Crap?

SL Brand presence "pretty crap"? The brand guys at the Blake Project Blog think so; "It all sounds pretty amazing, until you visit Second Life. Having spent last weekend walking around its virtual universe, I have to report that the whole thing is pretty crap - a bit like Milton Keynes with a very bad hangover. The branded locations that sounded so impressive in the pages of BusinessWeek are very basic and virtually devoid of visitors. Despite Second Life's bold claims of 8m residents, the limited server space means that locations can handle only 70 avatars at a time. Once you leave the congested entry portal, however, this is hardly a problem as most of the site is eerily quiet and deserted. I grew so bored and lonely in Second Life that I resorted to removing my trousers and shouting at the occasional avatars that passed by in a desperate attempt to make contact."

Second Life Cable Network to Broadcast A Panel on Financial Policy Changes in Second Life

SLCN.TV will provide a live broadcast of a panel discussion on the recent changes to the financial services policy in Second Life on January 10, 2007 from 11am to 12 pm SLT. The panel discussion is a special Metanomics presentation to be hosted by Professor Robert Bloomfield, of Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management. According to Bloomfield, "Many people anticipated that Linden Lab would eventually crack down on unregulated financial services in Second Life. However, the financial community was clearly taken by surprise today, when Linden announced that they were banning all banking activity, absent evidence that the financial institution was submitting to real-world regulation from an appropriate body."
"The announcement seems sure to eliminate virtually every bank currently operating in Second Life. Already, banks are experiencing runs, stock prices are falling and some land has been seen listed at fire-sale prices. However, several questions remain. It isn't clear whether this banking crisis will affect the Second Life economy, or the experiences of users who have found the financial sector of Second Life to be a source of interest and entertainment (if not profit). It also isn't clear how the policy affects the dozens of firms that issue equity securities on exchanges (all of which are tied to banks)", says Bloomfield. Bloomfield says that those tuning into this Metanomics session will get a better insight into the history behind this change in policy, and its likely short- and long-term implications. Current guests on the panel are:
• Travis Ristow, BCX
• Intlibber Brautigan, Ancapistan Capital Exchange
• Ben Duranske, Virtually Blind
Catch the live coverage exclusively on SLCN.TV

Chicago Tribune on Kiddie Virtual Worlds

"Toys increasingly tied to online worlds created for children to explore"; " A growing number of online tie-ins to toys such as Barbie, collectible trading card games and even stuffed animals are joining established kids-geared online communities to create what will soon become hundreds of social networks and virtual worlds for children. No one expects Web-enabled toys such as Webkinz stuffed animals or the online world devoted to Bratz dolls ( to completely supplant Lincoln Logs and Play-Doh. But in a relentlessly wired world, toymakers and those who specialize in kids' entertainment are finding children are already online and looking for virtual playscapes to explore. In a recent study, a senior analyst at consulting company eMarketer Inc. estimated that about 20 million U.S. children and teen Internet users will visit online virtual worlds at least once a month by 2011. Some of the most popular toy and game sites geared toward kids -- including, where kids can care for virtual pets, or the Antarctic-themed, Disney-owned -- already have millions of players, and many more online communities such as these are on the way. Many toys manufactured by companies such as Mattel Inc. now routinely include an online component allowing kids to take their play online. Webkins and Barbie Girls toys, for instance, are playthings that include a large online component: Kids can buy virtual goods for their Webkinz or play dress-up with their Barbie Girls on a Web site.

4Kids Entertainment, the company behind the popular Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh franchises, is launching a collectible trading card game that will include a way for players to battle one another online. The game is based on a popular Saturday morning cartoon, "Chaotic," which runs on Fox affiliates. Eventually, kids will be able to chat with one another while playing with their trading cards online -- each purchased card has a unique code that can be entered on a Web site,, for free online play. Carlin West, executive vice president of acquisitions and development at 4Kids, said "Chaotic" has been in the works for three years and is the foundation for other online games and virtual worlds that will target young players. "Kids are spending more time online," West said. "Therefore entertainment truly has to migrate online if it's going to have any presence with children. If online play is essential, then toymakers have to adapt to that position." The trading card game and its online equivalent keep kids invested enough to tune in to the TV show, she said.,1,4938536.story

Pokemon Guys to Start Virtual World

4Kids Entertainment, the company behind the popular Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh franchises, is launching a collectible trading card game that will include a way for players to battle one another online.

CIO Mag on Webkinz "Webkink Just Too Successful"

Good "Techmical Look" at Webkinz from CIO Mag and Bernard Golden; Every "Web 2.0" site dreads being too successful, and for Webkinz, that unhappy situation arrived December 26. Webkinz, if you're not familiar with them, are furry stuffed animals that have a Web 2.0 social media site that accompanies them. My kids are crazy for Webkinz, rifling all the local stores (and the San Jose Tech Museum) for them. Every Webkinz comes with a numbered tag. You enter the tag number at the Webkinz site and "adopt" your pet. By playing games, you earn KinzCash, with which you can buy stuff for your pet. There is a social media element to the site, in that you can interact with other people signed in by choosing from a number of available statements (e.g., "How are you today" and the like); limiting the interaction to Webkinz-provided statements precludes unacceptable language and the like. You can learn more about Webkinz at wikipedia. Wikepedia's entry on the little furry beasties seems to imply that Webkinz has passed its popularity peak, but, based on December 26, I'm not so sure. That's when my sons, eager to register their new pets, found the Webkinz site down. I think the site pooped out under the load of a zillion kids all wanting to get up and running with their new pet. I asked one of my sons to walk me through Webkinz world. It seems like you complete various tasks to earn money to decorate your pet's house and keep it fed, happy, and healthy. Frankly, it all seemed a bit too much like work for me to generate much enthusiasm for it. However, for kids of a certain age, Webkinz is catnip.

During the tour, one of the pages faulted and displayed an SQL error. I didn't get a chance to look at it in detail, but from a cursory look it sure seemed like a MySQL error. It certainly makes sense Webkinz world is open source-based. Open source powers most of the highly-scaled Web 2.0 offerings, since their businesses need significant scalability without increased software license fees every time they need to add new servers to keep up with the usage. Overall, I'd say Webkinz is a particularly brilliant offering. By tying participation to a physical good, the company can fund the technology without having to rely on ads, which many parents (myself included) find unacceptable. Certainly the company extracts a premium price for the animals, giving it better margins in a (forgive me) dog-eat-dog toy market. And using open source (assuming they do, which is a pretty safe bet) means their social site, which offers a more engaging experience than a mere stuffed animal, is affordable to build at scale.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Banks Banned in Second Life

Linden Lab has announced that virtual banking within Second Life is to be banned effective January 22 after receiving multiple complaints by Second Life residents scammed by bank operators. Banking and associated services have become popular in Second Life over the last two years, with many offering ponzi style interest schemes that usually sounded too good to be true. Ginko Financial was the best known failure amongst Second Life banks, owing 200 million Linden ($750,000) to depositors when it declared itself insolvent in August 2007. In a post on the Second Life blog, Ken Linden said that as well as not being able to provide protection to Second Life users with these banks running, their legality under law is also questionable. The decision is unlikely to affect virtual stock exchanges but may affect groups such as Second Life credit card provider Metacard, who also previously offered bank services as well. Second Life banks are experiencing a run on their funds as customers seek to get their money before the ban comes in place. Companies such as JT Financial have been inundated by customers wanting to know what is going on. Screen shot of the JT Financial crisis meeting below. Banking joins bestiality and gambling on the banned in Second Life list.

Related issues arose in a 1-1 between a Linden Exec and a Cornell Economics Professor where Linden repeatedly characterized SL as a software "service" or "product" and distanced SL from economic nomenclature; "Yoon dodged Bloomfield's questions about Linden Lab managing a monetary policy in-world by repeating his mantra about the metaphor being a distraction from Linden's business of offering a service to customers. Yoon likened Linden's business offering Second Life as “software as service” and drew parallels to both an Internet Service Provider offering e-mail services and a company like eBay offering a platform where customers can transact business amongst themselves. I found it fascinating that Ginsu dispenses with the usual metaphors like thinking of in-world activity as an 'economy,' Lindens as 'money,' or sims as 'land'....or anything that would interfere with his preferred metaphor of 'SL as product,' said Bloomfield after the panel. “This very pragmatic perspective does a nice job of making what seems novel and complex - World of Warcraft with real money? - seem familiar and straightforward (such as) E-bay and e-mail with great visuals.”

Bloomfield wondered what Yoon might be “throwing away” by eliminating the metaphors. He pointed to the fact that Second Life does have an economy and believes that Yoon should be thinking about “the supply and demand of product features that are traded freely among customers.” Regardless of Yoon's perspective, the “product” is still novel and complicated, Bloomfield said. At the start of the panel, Yoon admitted that he tends to see things in “black or white” terms and that his views do not always reflect the universally accepted views within Linden Lab. Said Yoon, "Give people what they want from a product perspective – Linden Lab has a responsibility and opportunity to satisfy user demand, to give them the product functionality they want.”"

Here Come the Pandas! (In German)! And here they are on YOUTUBE
Their payment partner is a new Dutch processor that has ex-BiBit people.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Mobile Virtual Worlds

Great blog post by HABBO Genius and Sulake Owner Sampo Karjalainen (aka Chief Creative Officer) at the Sulake Blog. Sampo, along with his HABBO partner Aappo Kyrola, is one of the true virtual world visionaries PaymentGuy ranks right up there with Philip Rosedale, Raph Koster, Howard Ganz and the Club Penguin Trio. From the post; "Tens of millions of people use virtual worlds on PCs. World of Warcraft, Habbo, Second Life, Club Penguin and other virtual worlds have made them mainstream online entertainment. And it doesn't stop there. Some analysts and experts believe virtual worlds to be the next major phase in the development of the Web. Gartner predicted in April: “By the end of 2011, 80 percent of active Internet users (and Fortune 500 enterprises) will have a ‘second life’, but not necessarily in Second Life.” On the other hand, another future prediction is the rise of mobile Internet. Internet use is currently being detached from the PC environment and expanded to various mobile devices. In the crossroads of these trends is a vast uncharted territory: virtual worlds on mobile devices. And I have a tickling feeling that we'll see something interesting development in this field soon :) We at Sulake started thinking, designing and prototyping mobile Habbo Hotel already some years ago. In 2004 we developed two mobile Habbo prototypes, but the time wasn't right for a commercial product. It worked only on high-end phones that teens didn't have and data traffic costs for users were just too high...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

WebKinz Mom Trashes Webkinz For Stuffed Ponies Wearinig Rhinestone Studded Jeans ...

From the Webkinz mom blog on the commercialization of kiddie worlds: "Of course, Web services are businesses, and many of them are very big businesses. I do not object to paid services, but I am very concerned about the rampant commercialism that is built into many entry-level Web activities for kids. My 8-year-old doesn't yet know that she is "supposed" to covet a flat-screen TV, but on Club Penguin, kids are taught that it's really cool to buy one for their avatar penguin's igloo. Webkinz has a virtual world/real world upsell strategy. You buy a stuffed animal that has an online counterpart who socializes in the online world. Then you are encouraged to buy KinzStyle outfits for your stuffed animal, and those outfits show up on your avatar as well. To get into the online KinzStyle shop, where you can buy virtual clothes with KinzCash, you have to have bought a real-world outfit for cold, hard cash. So the $15 stuffed animal turns into a major investment, and your little kid who wasn't worried about fashion turns into Paris Hilton. OK, that's over the top, but the concept of a stuffed pony wearing rhinestone-studded jeans, in real life or online, just about blows my mind."

UKash Partners With Vodafone

Really cool and useful service offered from UKash via Vodafone - mobile prepaid codes for cash... "Digital cash outfit Ukash is partnering with Vodafone to offer its debit and credit card alternative via mobile phones. Ukash is aimed at people who don't have credit or debit cards or do not want to use them online. Users purchase vouchers at retailers and then enter the unique and secure number at Web sites that accept Ukash. Through the Vodafone partnership customers can now purchase vouchers by visiting the Ukash Mobile Web page using their phone's Internet browser. The user is charged £11 for a £10 voucher, which is paid for by 'pre-pay' mobile phone credit. The customer then receives a SMS text message containing a 19 digit Ukash number which can be used to make payments on Web site and mobile Internet sites that accept the system. The service is powered by the AirPayment mobile platform from wireless Internet service provider Hybyte. Mark Chirnside, CEO, Ukash, says: "This new service makes getting Ukash even more convenient for mobile users, meaning they can get a voucher straight to their phone 24/7."

Digital River Buys Netgiro

Netgiro is great so smart aquisition by Digital River. Good luck guys

Avatar Rip-Off

David Talbot of MIT Technology Review (no that's not him in the pic ... but a RL person named Stephanie Roberts who got ripped off in SL) in "The Fleecing of the Avatars" discusses the mercenary world of ecommerce in SL and profiles the Ginko scandal: Ginko--operated by an avatar called Nicholas Portocarrero, whose real identity is not clear--persuaded hundreds of people to deposit their Linden dollars. The reasons for what happened next are murky, but the results were clear enough: the "bank" vanished, and depositors say their money did, too. In July 2007, residents began clustering around machines to try to recover their money after Ginko began restricting withdrawal amounts. Then Ginko announced that deposits were now in "Ginko perpetual bonds" rather than Linden dollars. Those bonds soon plunged in value, and in October, they ceased to exist. The reported losses may have totaled $700,000, according to Ben Duranske, a lawyer based in Idaho who writes a blog on virtual legal issues. Some Second Lifers have reported losing thousands of dollars in Ginko. Roberts is among the luckier ones: she says she lost only her $144 in savings. But the point isn't just that somebody other than Roberts ended up with her money. What may be most significant is that nothing happened to whoever may have taken it. Her money disappeared into the 3-D ether"