Saturday, September 6, 2008

Moshi Monsters - a safe world for kids

Mind Candy, the parent company of Moshi Monsters, seems very concerned with your child’s safety. They even go so far as to keep an eye on your monster’s pinboard, where your, in - game, friends can leave you messages. These messages go through two levels of moderation before they are release to the child member. The rules states that a member may not give out personal information such as name, address, telephone number or any other critical information that might identify the member child. The more popular you make your monster, and the more friends you have, the better chance your monster will become Monstar of the Week.

Members adopt their own Monster and keep it happy by solving daily puzzles that are sent to each player. Monster owners can interact with their pets by tickling them, playing games, shopping, designing their rooms, and shortly by dressing them up. One core element being promoted for Moshi Monsters is the ability to build an emotional bond between the user and their Monster, which is achieved through flash animation and a complex behavioral engine. Monsters develop their own unique personalities depending on how well, or badly, they’ve been treated. Players can connect and communicate with others through the Friends Tree, visits to other Monster rooms, Monster blogs, Newsfeeds, and a messaging system. This site is totally geared towards kids, so online safety is a top priority and the Moshi Monsters team monitors site activity to make sure it remains safe. The more attention a Monster gets from its owner and their friends, the higher its Monstar status rises. All Monsters start as Z-Listers and can rise through the ranks to become A-List Monstars. Moshi Monsters is played in the browser and requires no download. The game is free to play, although a subscription feature for premium elements will launch in the future, as well a range of offline products.

In reviewing this kiddie virtual world, the first thing PG noticed was the instructional tour had the monsters talking in an “alien” language with the words written in English on the screen. This makes it very difficult for young children to play as reading ability is required. Another action that limits age groups is the daily puzzles and working at the Power Plant. Obviously, this website is targeted to an age group of 6 to 14 years old. There seems to be a genuine concern for child online safety. And that's a good thing! not a scary thing ....

Sulake President of North America Tells LA Times 10% of Habbos Spend $17-$18 per month (let's do the math...)

PG just had to return to the issue of Habbo spending limits visited in the post below. Something does not compute here.

If Sulake's President of North America is to be believed (see that 10% of Habbo Users spend $17-$8 a month buying furni (and other virtual items) and Habbo has 100 million users registered with Sulake reportin on its homepage 10 million "unique visitors" a month this would mean ($17 x 1M) = $17 million a month spent on virtual items at Habbo Hotel. So for 1 year ($17 mill X 12 mo) this totals north of $200 million in revenue. WOOT! If only ...

However, in the Finnish business press Sulake recently reported revenues rose approximately 20% to 25,6 million euros ($36.5 mill usd) for the first 6 months of 2008 with the majority of the revenues from sale of virtual goods in Habbo Hotels world wide. Sulake also said annual growth for 2008 will be around 30%.
That would make for 53 mill euro or $73 mill usd revenue per annum and that includes IRC Galleria revenue and HABBO ad revenue.

So can it be true that 10% of HABBOS spend $17-$18 per month? - FUHGETTABOUTIT!.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Conferences ... Conferences ... Why spill your guts?

Why do all of these virtual world execs go to conferences and start spilling their guts? I mean, what is there to gain (other than free airfare, comped hotel, food and drinks of course...) from going to a hot smelly room of strangers and in the process telling the world about everything successful they have done and what they have learned from all the mistakes they made in the past? Is there some secret hidden ROI from blah blah blahing and power pointing all your good stuff at conferences full of competitors and wanna be competitors? There must be! Certainly... otherwise why do it?

Anyway, on that note ... PG recently came across an excellent preso on HABBO Hotel. It is a very detailed 66 slides and authored by their CTO no less. You may access it here.

This is great stuff full of best practices, inside information and how-tos and how not to's. It is especially useful insider info for existing competitors or potential competitors like a team of devs or new media studios mulling over the prospects of creating a BABBO MOTEL.

Ever see anything like this from the dev crew at Gaia online? Howard Ganz detailing Webkinz? Or Lane Merrifield on Club Penguin? PG has not.

Well maybe there is some heavily sterilized, "Disney-Legal-Counsel" redacted and sanitized stuff Lane presents at conferences now that he has cashed in his virtual igloos for $700 mill usd. However, there is no virtual world publisher so generous with sharing its IP as Sulake. The HABBO guys seem to love spreading oodles and oodles of insider power-point goodness and best practices all over the web. Just GOOGLE "HABBO PPT" or "SULAKE PPT" and see for yourself.

Virtual Worlds With Toy Tie - Ins

This is a no-brainer. Look at the success of Webkinz. So why should virtual world, mmo and game designers and publishers care? Toy tie-ins are not only an additional revenue source, but they allow for a deeper connection with the users. And there is a huge amount of opportunity in this space. But most relevantly for PaymentGuys and PaymentGirls, retail based and sold interactive merchandise connecting buyer to the virtual environment, game portfolio or world is simply the best payment method for a youth and parent customer demo. Think about it. When a user buy s an interactive toy at a store, there is no fraud, few chargebacks, brand is built in the real world, spontaneous user acquisition occurs, collectabilty starts and indirect purchasing happens (grannie buys Webkinz plush for grandkids etc...).

PG says virtual world publishers, especially those running kiddie virtual worlds, must start looking beyond the PC screen and focusing on the virtual environment itself. The retail based revenue stream has too much potential not to. And most importantly it allows end-users and customers to connect to virtual worlds, create more engagement and have more fun. It is all about engagement and high-levels of creative interactivity.

Here is a quick run-down of the key players in the interactive toy arena is arena but it is not by any means complete;

- Webkinz: The plush toys for starters, as well as figurines, lip gloss, and other licensed products to monetize the interest in the brand.

- and Be-Bratz: Are targeting older. Toys and accessories already available, more to follow.

- Card based: many properties are expanding this way, including Bella Sara, Chaotic, Maple Story, and World of Warcraft.

- Virtual Paper Dolls and IRL (Fashion) Design: (with Habbo), Stardoll, Zazzle, and all provide different tools that allow users to bring virtual fashions into the real world: by printing avatars on a T-shirt, or designing avatar clothes that can then be made IRL for the player, designing your own avatar-based figurine, etc.

- Toy that detects screen patterns when held up to the computer screen, changing the mood of the "test tube alien" inside.

- UbFunKeys: Similar to Webkinz, but with plastic figurines instead of plush toys.

- Tamagotchi: Relaunched and updated to include an online world.

The virtual world with interactive toy business is where it is at!

The Best Email Scam in SomeTime

On Fri, Sep 5, 2008 at 4:05 PM, Sgt, Jarvis Reeves, wrote PaymentGuy:

I am in the Engineering military unit in Iraq,we have about $50,000,000USD.
Kindly contact me via my private Email:( Regards, Sgt.
Jarvis Reeves.

PaymentGuy replied:

Yo JARHEAD! I wanna get me some of that Mullah Moolah. What do I gotta do? Col. PaymentGuy

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

RocketOn Rocks (Part II)

The RocketOn guys are still in Beta but doing cool things already. PaymentGuy likes the idea of parallel virtual worlds and the platform approach. Read the PR here "RocketOn & Animax Partner on Virtual World Creation; Industry leaders team up on parallel virtual worlds"

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- September 2008 -- RocketOn, Inc., creator of the Parallel Virtual World Platform, and Animax Entertainment, an Emmy-winning multiplatform entertainment studio, today announced at the Virtual Worlds Conference in Los Angeles, their strategic partnership to co-develop parallel virtual worlds.

RocketOn will benefit from Animax’s expertise in creating high quality animated content and from its relationships with major brands, media networks & movie studios. Animax and its clients will have access to RocketOn’s Parallel Virtual World Platform™ and authoring system, making it easy to rapidly deploy virtual spaces, avatars and games across any website.

“RocketOn is a great way to launch and manage parallel virtual worlds,” says Michael Bellavia, CEO of Animax. “It enables us to create rich browser-based, virtual environments anywhere on the web without a user download. In a matter of weeks, we can literally build out a virtual space, deploy it on a website and populate it with content.” RocketOn manages the entire platform, including integrating the content, running the servers, and providing billing, e-commerce, analytics, maintenance and customer support. Animax’s team would determine the strategic implementation, develop the marketing plan and produce the creative.

Sulake Needs A Subscription Model for HABBO (if it wants to make money!)

PaymentGuy loves the philosophy behind discretionary spending caps to limit abuse but he cannot help thinking that this is the main reason why HABBO, despite attracting 100,000,000+ registrations, has not made any money. It is way long over due that Sulake follow Club Penguin and all the rest and offer a monthly subscription. This is a proven profitable business model where parents allow their credit card sto be billed at a reasonable monthly recurring rate of less than $10 - DUHHHHHHHHHHH! Do you get it now? Woooot!

If Sulake does not offer a monthly subscription model and persists with limiting spending on micro-payment end-user revenue it will never make any money (i.e. be profitable) - guaranteed! And relying on advertising to help pad the turnover is a pipe dream. Profitable Kiddie Virtual Worlds like Penguin and WebKinz realized long ago that chasing advertising dollars is not where it is at. Rather, it is monthly recurring end-user revenue in the form of monthly subscriptions or purchases of retail based interactive toy merchandise that makes the business profitable and sustainable.

PaymentGuy is not saying Sulake must ditch the micro-payment per transaction model with HABBO. Rather, Sulake must supplement this proven revenue generating model with the proven profit-generator of offering monthly subscriptions for premium access to the Hotel by employing their vast array of payment menthods throughout its unmatched international payment network.

And pssssst... while your at it Sulake, make HABBO credits / coins / talers cross-Hotel-redeemable and simplify currency and furni pricing for good-ness sakes!

By the way, PaymentGuy would love to see proof that "... 10% (HABBO's), spend between $17 to $18 a month to decorate their virtual cribs and characters." according to HABBO's "President of North America". But of course that is not true otherwise HABBO would be profitable. And how would these HABBO's get to spend $17 - $18 a month with spending limits anyway?

Mr. President HABBO goes on to say 2/3rds of HABBO users are aged 13-16?

WHATEVER! Of course you can get away with saying whatever you want when you are on the management team of a privately held company with no transparency and public accountability. He should clearly spend more time in the office and less time at the beach.

Anyway, here is the article in the LA Times;

The policy to limit spending, which has been in place since Habbo launched in 2001, stems from a desire to protect younger players. About two-thirds of its users are between 13 and 16 years old. Habbo Room "When teenagers get into things, they sometimes spend too much," said Teemu Huuhtanen, president of the North American unit of Sulake, the Helsinki, Finland-based company that runs Habbo. "We didn't want a situation where teens were raiding their parents' credit cards to be able to play."

The vast majority of its users don't spend any money to play on the site, which is free to use. The rest, about 10%, spend between $17 to $18 a month to decorate their virtual cribs and characters. That's ideal," he said in an interview today at the Virtual Worlds Conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center. "We really don't want teenagers to spend more than the price of two movie tickets a month on Habbo." If turning down money seems un-American, it is. Sulake's Scandinavian origins meant it grew up in a market that heavily favors consumers' rights. In October, the company will also reward members for being good virtual citizens. Users will be able to accumulate "activity points" for doing good deeds, such as welcoming new players or helping out newbies find their way around.

NOTE: By the way, PG may as well say at first glance these activity points seem to be a very dumb idea. Especially in light of the above. How do free points for busy-HABBO's make money for Sulake anyway? Weird.