Thursday, April 24, 2008

Inside APAJA

Ever wonder what it looks like inside of one of Finland's leading casual game studios?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

ClickandBuy President of North America Lance Devin Quits and Returns to Billing Solutions Group

Yet another negative development at ClickandBuy, recently, Lance Devin has left as President of ClickandBuy North America after 10 months to return to BSG.

ClickandBuy CTO Fabien Siegel Quits

In another sign of turmoil at ClickandBuy, its CTO Fabien Siegel, the technical innovator behind ClickandBuy's payment infrastructure has left the company.

Monday, April 21, 2008

ClickandBuy CEO Norbert Stangl Resigns

ClickandBuy's troubles continue forcing the Founder and acting CEO Norbert Stangl to step aside "Stangl and the investors of Firstgate have agreed upon a new management structure.
Mr. Stangl remains president of the shareholders meeting. The appointement of a new CEO will take place soon. Untill then a interim CEO from ALIXPartners assume this role. That`s all to strenghten the position of the company and to gain further growth... the rest of the blah blah blah in German

Bad weather, oppressive regimes, poor economic conditions -- that's what makes an SL user

Philip actually said this; ""The only thing that SL users have in common is that they have a lot of time." Users in big cities such as New York or Los Angeles were least likely to spend time in Second Life, not only because they were busy but because they had less need to escape to an alternative, anonymous world, he said. "Bad weather, oppressive regimes, poor economic conditions -- that's what makes an SL user."
Reuters, Monday April 21 2008 *Founder sees potential for Second Life to go mainstream *says close to finding new Linden Lab CEO *says IPO still not a priority By Georgina Prodhan, European Technology Correspondent
FRANKFURT, April 21 (Reuters) - Virtual world Second Life has the potential to become mainstream once computers and connections catch up with the aspirations of its creators, its founder told Reuters in an interview on Monday. Despite the fact that user growth is slowing as a wave of publicity subsides, Philip Rosedale believes activity will increase 100-fold as improvements in computers and Second Life's own systems make it easier and more fun to become a citizen. "I estimate we're at 1 percent of total use in 5-10 years," said Rosedale, the chief executive of Linden Lab, which runs Second Life, comparing its trajectory to that of the World Wide Web, which entered the mainstream in the mid-1990s. Second Life has established a niche following among fans patient enough to grapple with the technology, but many who dabbled when the hype surrounding the virtual world was at its peak were deterred by the time, effort and technology required. Second Life has about 13 million registered citizens but only a hard core estimated to number several hundred thousand are thought to to be regular visitors. User hours grew by 15 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the fourth quarter of last year, to almost 350 million. Rosedale said a new generation of computers with more powerful graphics capacities would help stimulate wider interest in Second Life, where avatar models representing users fly or teleport around and can buy and sell land in Linden dollars. "You have to wait out the PC retirement cycle," said Rosedale, who plans to step down as CEO to concentrate on product development and strategy.
He said he wanted to spend more time on improving Second Life, for example by making it easier to learn how to fly, walk and exchange money and to find things and people in the three-dimensional virtual world. Rosedale said he was close to finding a new chief executive for Linden Lab. "We may have some news in the next few weeks." He declined to say whether the person was likely to be an insider or an outsider but said the new CEO need not necessarily have a software development background. Rosedale, visiting Germany on a tour of Europe -- Second Life's most important market outside the United States -- said the appointment of a new CEO should not be taken as a sign that a public listing was imminent. "There's no change in the strategy there," he said. "We can go public any time we want. Revenue is growing with users. We're profitable. We have the luxury of waiting." Linden Lab, whose backers include Benchmark Capital and Omidyar Network, does not disclose its revenues. Rosedale said Second Life's failure as yet to reach a mass market had partly to do with the unexpected rise in popularity of laptop computers, which are typically less well equipped to process three-dimensional graphics than desktop computers. "When we started the company in 1999, it was obvious that broadband would become widespread and at the same time Nvidia released its GeForce2 (graphics chip)," he said. "What we didn't anticipate was Wi-Fi and the rise of laptops, which couldn't do 3D." Asked to explain the appeal of Second Life -- which has no game-like aspects such as points-scoring, winners or losers -- Rosedale said: "The only thing that SL users have in common is that they have a lot of time." Users in big cities such as New York or Los Angeles were least likely to spend time in Second Life, not only because they were busy but because they had less need to escape to an alternative, anonymous world, he said.
"Bad weather, oppressive regimes, poor economic conditions -- that's what makes an SL user." (Editing by David Cowell)

Failure to adopt e-payments costing Ireland €1.4bn a year

The Irish economy is losing up to €1.4bn a year due to huge inefficiencies in rolling out electronic payments services, the Irish Payments Services Organisation (IPSO) has claimed.
Ireland is one of the most inefficient countries in Europe when it comes to electronic payments, IPSO said, with the continued reliance on cheques and cash costing the economy up to €1.4bn annually. The organisation described the cheque as “an obsolete form of payment” which must be eliminated from Irish society to ensure a more efficient payments landscape. Ireland is one of the last few significant users of cheques in Europe, with our usage double that of the EU average. Cheques account for more than 75pc of all non-cash payments in value terms, IPSO said. A reluctance to embrace electronic payments is stifling the nation’s productivity, according to the organisation. “Our payment patterns remain firmly fixed on the lower end of the efficiency scale,” said Pat McLoughlin, chief executive, IPSO. “While there is an abundance of electronic payment options available to Irish customers, Irish domestic payment behaviour patterns continue to be heavily reliant on cash and cheque options which are the most costly and inefficient. This is incurring significant costs to small and large businesses on an annual basis.” McLoughlin called for a deadline to eliminate cheques from Irish society, declaring they should be obsolete by 2016. IPSO has also announced figures from new research that shows 73pc of the Irish population owns a Laser card, a 40pc increase on Laser card ownership since 2006. Some 69pc of peopled polled by IPSO stated they would increase their card usage if the minimum spend requirement was removed by Irish retailers. By Niall Byrne

EU's McCreevy tells payment card cos not to use SEPA as excuse for price rises

BRUSSELS (Thomson Financial) - EU internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy said payment card providers must not use the single European payments area (SEPA) as an excuse to replace national card payment schemes with more expensive ones. In a speech in Dublin, McCreevy said there is 'justifiable concern' that greater functionality of payment cards could come at the cost of increased market concentration and a more expensive payment card for the merchant. 'At the heart of this issue is our concern that cheaper national card schemes should not be replaced by more expensive payment card schemes, using SEPA as a pretext,' he said. McCreevy also said that commission's plans to implement SEPA, and recent legal proceedings against Mastercard and Visa, called for banks to create a new European player in the industry. 'Of course, as regards the possible emergence of a genuine European scheme, I fully recognise that where banks are called upon to make fresh investment to create a new EU debit card player, clarity on possible business models and a possible MIF (multilateral interchange fee) that is compatible with EU competition law is crucial,' he added. Last December, the commission ruled that MasterCard (nyse: MA - news - people )'s interchange fee payments network within the European Economic Area (EEA) is illegal. McCreevy reiterated that whilst the decision was received with 'mixed feelings' by the banking industry, it did not conclude that all MIFs are illegal per se.

European payments industry to convene in Helsinki

Finextra Research and the Euro Banking Association will this year hold their annual European payments forum - EBAday 2008 - over two days in Helsinki in June, with the support of lead sponsors Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Nordea, Pohjola Bank, and Logica. Now in its third year, EBAday2008 will look beyond the practical compliance requirements of operating in a Single Euro Payments Area and deal with the strategic questions that banks must address if they are to prosper in the new business environment. Adopting the theme, 'Towards end-to-end effectiveness of payments' the two-day event at the Marina Congress Centre will for the first time play host to the corporate community with a series of special interest sessions dedicated to the impact of Sepa on corporates and opportunities for corporate innovation in payments. The top-level conference and seminar programme at EBAday is complemented by an exhibition showcasing the complete spectrum of payment processing services from leading banks, ACHs, technology vendors, and consultancies. With two months to go before EBAday2008 opens its doors for business, the exhibition floor is fast approaching sell-out, reflecting the growing success of the event in attracting a high quality delegate audience. To register for the event and get the latest updates on the speaker programme and agenda, go to

Ipso puts cheque abolition target on hold

20 April 2008 By Emma Kennedy The Irish Payment Services Organisation (Ipso) is awaiting responses from a national payments advisory group before it proceeds with its target of ending cheque payments by 2016. Pat McLoughlin, chief executive of Ipso, said it had presented a paper considering the future of cheque payments to the national advisory group responsible for the National Payment s Implementation Programme. The advisory group includes representatives from government departments, regulators, the payments industry and business and consumer representatives. McLoughlin said he hoped to have responses within the next two weeks, and would then be in a position to approach the government about devising a national strategy to eradicate cheques. He said the government needed to lead the way, by reducing its own use of cheque payments. In 2006,McLoughlin’s predecessor at Ipso, Stewart MacKinnon, set a deadline of 2010 for scrapping cheques as a means of payment. ‘‘Unless a national plan is established to end cheque payments, the converted will keep talking to themselves and slow progress will be made,” McLoughlin said. Ipso claims that, in terms of using electronic payment methods, Ireland is among the most inefficient countries in Europe and estimates that a reliance on cheques and cash is costing the economy up to €1.4 billion annually. Ireland’s cheque usage is about double that of the EU average, with cheques accounting for more than 75 per cent of all non-cash payments in value terms, according to Ipso. McLoughlin said there had only been a 4 to 5 per cent reduction in cheque usage in 2006, and predicted a similar figure in 2007. He said Ireland looked set to fall further behind the rest of Europe, based on that rate of reduction in cheque usage.

Why Kiddie Worlds Dominate

From Digado; "When I posted 'The Teen Dilemma' it was already obvious how Linden Labs was missing out on the big potential for the next couple of years - the teen based worlds. Neopets claim of 30 million unique users, Club Penguins sale and nickelodeon's announcement to open a series of virtual worlds made sure even the most sceptic analysts can't deny the upcoming market for persistent, social environments for kids. At the last VW'08 conference it became painfully obvious how big the gap between the kids & teens and the actual adult audience was according to the Reuters report. Apart from a Second Life stand there was hardly any material targeting the adult virtual world participant.
So why is it these kidsworlds are currently dominating the market, and have no intention of surrendering this position any time soon, with about 30 to 40 worlds getting ready to launch in the next 12 to 18 months? Here are 10 reasons why I think the marketing money right now is going towards kids:

1. Kids are already online, and used to virtual environments
2. Kids have proven to be capable of providing critical mass
3. Kids know the value of Virtual Products (status) by nature
4. Kids don't object to the controlled, safe environments corporations want
5. Kids play, play creates content, content captivates and creates lock ins
6. Kids are not sceptical about branding
7. Kidsworlds are centralized, creating valuable 'focus points' for advertising
8. Kids don't go bezerk on corporate decisions
9. Kids want stuff. Adult 'stuff' such as coffee mugs don't work, toys do
10. Kids are harder to reach outside of the internet

100 + Kiddie Virtual Worlds +

Vrtual Worlds Management released a new report on Youth Worlds: Based on a comprehensive research available through Virtual Worlds News they have found that there are now over 100 virtual worlds operating or in development with a focus on the youth market (18-and-under). A list of over 100 virtual worlds targeted at youth now online or being developed.
But they forgot CoolCamels - which is GREAT!

Linden Lab Struggling With Open Source Initiative

From one of the most prominent Second Life developers on the open source viewer; "The Moment of Truth: A very insightful person once told me to look at what people are doing rather than listening to what people are saying (which more or less is a variation of "actions speak louder than words"). I can't ignore any longer the gap between what I'm actually doing compared to what I've been planning to in regards to the SL™ viewer. If you look back over my last posts here, I said that I wanted to build something based on the 1.19 version, but if I look back what I actually did in over the last weeks, I see that I just didn't. Not that I didn't want to, it's just that I did not spend time on it after making an initial attempt with an 1.19.0 RC. Today, after I heard through the blog comments here that 1.19.1 went gold, I wanted to give that a shot, but seeing that there isn't any up to date source and hearing that a couple of people had trouble getting it to run out of the box, was the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. I just one time too often stumbled over LL™'s inability to support their open source in the most basic way."

Mssively also covers the story here;

"We here at Massively have never seen a viewer experience as good or as smooth as those provided by Beresford's patches, and we're going to miss that. Beresford's viewer felt like a luxury motor vehicle compared to Linden Lab's official viewer - and could be run for days without worrisome crashes or memory leaks."

German World Panfu Teaches Children Spanish; Sees 1M+ Registrations in 4 Months

Panfu is a kiddie virtual world based out of Germany aimed at teaching children Spanish with games and socialization. Most of the content is in the localized language, but some is left in Spanish to promote immersion. The browser-based 2.5D world is ad-free--the educators behind it seem staunch on that point--and is supported by a $5.95/month subscription that gives premium users to buy clothes, own pets, and customize treehouses. "We launched this site in December 2007 in Germany and have seen more than 1 million sign-ups since in Germany alone," explained Dr. Zouhair Belkoura. "Driven by the huge success, we were quick to also launch our platform in Spain, France, and the Netherlands in February. The UK and Poland sites went online yesterday. "

The Sims Breaks 100 million

I love the Sims. Here are two good articles on EA's most successful property of all time that is now a $4 billion franchise;

In only eight years, the Sims ™ has gone from a brave new game to sales figures of over 100 million, official as of April 16, 2008, according to its manufacturer Electronic Arts, Inc.
Noted by Wikipedia as "one of the most successful video game series of all time," the game can be played on a PC as well as popular game platforms like Wii, Playstation 2, and Nintendo. There is no specific agenda to the game--it's an open-ended creative endeavor where players create characters and then take them through virtual lives, where they meet other characters, acquire homes and other assets, lose homes by not paying their bills, and experience other aspects of real life like birth, dating, marriage, even aging and death. Although the creation of characters and life experience is similar to that in Linden Life's Second Life, the latter has taken on much more the form of an alternate lifestyle for its participants, which the Sims remains much more recreational. The game has been published in 60 countries and 22 languages, and even has its own language called Simlish. A fun fact provided by EA in its press release: if 100 million boxes of The Sims were lined up end-to-end, they would stretch from New York City to Moscow. Based in Redwood City, California, Electronic Arts, Inc., has continued since 2000 to provide upgrades to the popular game, moving into full 3-D versions, with storylines, more gadgets and at one time, a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) that has since been downsized to another EA product, EA-Land. Players new and old can still hook up with other aficionados online at to exchange information, hints, stories and get free stuff for their characters.

Second Life Economy Grows But Fewer Users

By Eric Reuters
SECOND LIFE, April 15 (Reuters) - Fewer new users are signing up for Second Life, but the faithful are spending more time and money than ever inside Linden Lab's virtual world. Second Life's in-world economy is growing at a rate of 15 percent annually, Linden Lab CFO John Zdanowski (writing as Zee Linden) said on Tuesday. User hours, concurrency, and economic transactions all showed robust growth. But even as time and money spent in Second Life swells, Linden's premium subscriber base -- the paid accounts that are allowed to own land on Second Life's mainland -- declined for the fourth consecutive month in March. The total avatar population grew by 3.2 percent to just over 13 million, the slowest month-to-month growth on record. The numbers suggest that a smaller, highly engaged base of Second Life users is intensifying its interest in the virtual world even as Second Life's appeal to new users fades. Zdanowski said Second Life achieved a gross domestic product of US$300 million by the end of March, a larger total economy than real-world nations such as Dominica or Micronesia. While Second Life's economy is still significantly smaller than it was before gambling was banned last summer, the number of financial transactions between users shows relatively steady growth. More money is also circulating through the LindeX, Linden Lab's exchange for converting real-world currency into Linden Dollars, and strong consumer demand has pushed average land prices up from L$6.3 per meter to L$11.5 per meter in three months. Linden has said it will increase its supply of land to put downward pressure on prices, a move that angered some existing owners of virtual homesteads. But even as the overall demand for land surges, there are fewer buyers in the market. Second Life shed 1,656 paid accounts in March, the fourth month in a row more people got out of the land trade than entered it. Total premium accounts stand at 89,875, below last summer's 94,607 peak. Second Life's population at March's end grew to just over 13 million, although that number includes an unknown number of inactive accounts widely thought to be about 90 percent. But in March only 408,000 new accounts were created, the smallest gain in absolute numbers since September 2007, and the smallest monthly percent gain since Second Life's debut in April 2001.

Linden Lab's Financials

Good speculative post with decent analysis and conjecture by Prokofy Neva aka Catherine Fitzpatrick on Linden Lab's financials (Linden is open about a lot of things other than its financials ...); "A Nation With $36 Million Annual GNP"
In public group chat today in Metanomics, a group of 779 people interested in attending the Metanomics series organized by Prof. Robert Bloomfield of Cornell University, Zee Linden (John Zdanowski, CFO of Linden Lab in real life), made a number of quite interesting statements that haven't been publicized before: In response to several queries from concerned residents fearful of media and blog rumours that LL is going under or going to IPO or merge, he said Linden Lab had a free cash flow of $6 million in Q1 [9:14] Zee Linden: We had over $6m of free cash flow in the first quarter...I don't think we're going anywhere...

The back-of-the-envelope figuring for LL's revenue always starts from the premise that it has $60 million in income from tier alone, figuring that 16,000 islands currently (private islands make up more than 75 percent of the grid) at $295 a month in tier equals $60 million. That's not even counting then the figures for sales at $1695 for islands, and as much as $3500 or $4000 for mainland sims with $195 monthly tier. LL also makes money from special licensing fees (the Sheep, in order to stage the CSI event; and IBM to run SL behind a firewall).

Another Virtual World / MMO - this time in 3D!

Sociotown is a new massive multiplayer online game (mmog), and it has just entered public beta phase. The most interesting part about the game is it's 3d, and in a web browser. In the past online mmog's have generally been 2d so it's nice to see these things in 3D (not that there's anything wrong with 2d!).

Equifax buys stake in Russian company

ATLANTA (AP) - Equifax (NYSE:EFX) Inc. bought 28 percent of credit information company Global Payments Credit Services LLC and plans to rebrand the company as its outpost in the Russian market, the credit reporting bureau said Tuesday. Equifax did not disclose terms of its deal with Global Payments Europe SRO, which is the European unit of Global Payments Inc. (NYSE:GPN) The company also took the option to buy up to 50 percent of Global Payments Credit Services. The move is part of its plan to expand into Russia, India, China and Mexico.

EU to Compete with Visa, Mastercard

THE European Commission said yesterday that contacts had been made with banks on setting up a payments card network that could rival Visa and MasterCard. “We have had a series of contacts with banks and other interested parties about payments cards,” said commission spokesperson for competition matters Jonathan Todd. The Financial Times reported yesterday that Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank of Germany and French banks Societe Generale and BNP Paribas were preparing to decide on launching a new card network in the coming months. “Members of this project have approached the commission, but they’re not the only ones,” Todd said. According to the Financial Times, the willingness of the German and French banks to go ahead with their initiative depends on how high the commission would accept interchange fees to be set. — Sapa-AFP