Friday, September 12, 2008

Fruugo talks the talk - can it walk the walk?

Lot's of bigtalk from mysterious Fruugo dudes and dudettes .. PG cannot wait to see some action. Their test-tube is bubbling over with frothy green money making excitement. At least you can see they are saving money on marketing.

An example of their most recent PR was most attention-grabbing in its modesty;

"Fruugo will do for online shopping what Google did for Internet search. Reinventing the concept of e-commerce, Fruugo brings together businesses and consumers throughout Europe for a one-of-a-kind e-commerce experience. As we make an inspiring and social online shopping experience a reality, national borders and language boundaries lose their importance. Interactive, social, versatile, true-to-life... Fruugo is an online shopping experience unlike any other. Our constantly expanding team currently consists of more than a hundred enthusiastic experts, and the growth will continue after the launch. Fruugo will be launched later in 2008.” - Reijo Syrjäläinen, CEO, Fruugo Ltd.

Talk about reasonable expectations. With talk like this the newbie-Fruugo's have positioned themselves as the most revolutionary and perfect payment solution the internet has even known ... well, they better be with promises like that!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gaia Online Balances Monetization And Creativity

Gaia Online is unique among virtual worlds, beginning as a forum before evolving into a virtual world which boasts over 2.5 million users every month. It can often be a challenge for growing online worlds to balance monetization strategies against the needs of the communities that built them, but Gaia CEO Craig Sherman says he's found a solution whereby both world and advertising strategy can grow in tandem. Sherman says Gaia's evolution hinges on its users' needs and requests -- and when they asked for the ability to battle, Gaia responded by launching a proper MMO, Gaia Battle, alongside its social world. Now, Sherman explains in depth the evolution of Gaia Online from a community website into a full-scale world and game, and how the company's maintained its creativity and relationship with its users even as it's undergone exponential growth from its humble origins. We recently profiled Gaia, and what I found interesting is the site started as a more traditional community site, and then grew into an online world.

blah blah blah

This is way too long and rambles with no juicy inside stuff so PG will cut it short and give readers the link:

Fatfoogoo Brings Micropayments to Sun's Project Darkstar

From Virtual Worlds News; "fatfoogoo announced today that it would be enable the integration of its micropayment software with Sun's open-source virtual world and MMOG creator Project Darkstar. As the first billing and transaction solution designed explicitly to work with Darkstar, fatfoogoo is initially enabling developers to use its virtual item trading, subscription management and in-game economic control tools.

"The work that fatfoogoo is doing to extend the reach of Project Darkstar exemplifies and underscores the value of open source communities," said Karl Haberl, Director of the Project Darkstar research initiative at Sun Microsystems. "fatfoogoo has openly shared their expertise with others, enriching the Project Darkstar Community with their code contributions, interactions with game developers, and now with commercial software offerings. We are very pleased with the positive results of fatfoogoo's Community participation, including the new opportunities they have presented to developers of online games, virtual worlds, and social networking applications."

Sulake Chairman's Igglo Melts

After a 3 year cumulative losing streak of 15.1 mill euro, high-profile real estate startup Igglo (, the brainchild of Sulake Chairman Jussi Nurmio is kaput, and its website being folded into
Sanoma Group's online real estate service. But of course, they are not spinning it that way:
For more details see

Interestingly, fellow Sulake Board member Johan Brenner, formerly of Benchmark Capital, and now with Balderton was also an investor in Igglo. They only put $12.5 million
in Igglo so I guess their exposure was minimal. Or was that 12.5 million Euro?

Anyway ...

In retrospect, however, a 3 year loss in the real world of real estate is no big deal. While Chairing the Board of Sulake, Nurmio has lost real money in the virtual world of HABBO 7 years in a row (2000 - 2007). It remains to be seen whether this year, year 8, will be the year Chairman Nurmio breaks his HABBO losing streak and makes a real profit at the virtual Hotel. Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

ANOTHER Teen Virtual World

New 3D virtual worlds are appearing almost every week. And here's another one - under a .NET domain no less! Guess all the good .COM domains are gone. This one is called Hangout and is still in private beta at the moment, so if you want to have a look around you'll need to apply for an invitation.

This one claims to be designed for teens and if you watch the video on the homepage, it does look teeny. This one follows the predictable pattern of; a. each person will be able to have their own room b. which they will customize with virtual merchandise.
Graphics look ok and there is a decent level of customisation of the various rooms.
With most of these new worlds, there is little or NO innovation but interestingly, they are announcing both voice and text chat and the ability to create audio playlists and videos in the rooms. Tthere is mention of credit card payments on the terms of use, though this might not be for membership. The terms of use also say that user between 13 and 17 need to get their parents approval to register, so hopefully they are taking security seriously.

Multiverse and James Cameron Announce Places in Time

Multiverse and James Cameron have today announced Places in Time: Titanic, an educational virtual world based on the historic Titanic voyage.

According to the press release, Places in Time: Titanic will provide the opportunity for immersive research and exploration on the ship's construction, maiden voyage, and on contemporary expeditions to study the wreck. Incorporating original digital footage, computer models, and encyclopedic data created and assembled by James Cameron, the world will be offered to the global online audience free of charge.

"I've always wanted to let people see what it was like to sail aboard Titanic, to really know the ship, the passengers, and their place in history," said Academy Award-winning director James Cameron. "With Multiverse, the technology finally exists to offer this very personal experience."

Places in Time: Titanic will launch as a new destination within the company's consumer-accessible virtual world, Multiverse Places. Once complete, the project will combine qualities of massively multiplayer online games and virtual worlds into a new form of experiential learning. Virtual explorers will have the ability to experience Titanic in real and condensed time, easily move from one event to another, and - through their own actions, affect the world around them, enriching the experience for everyone.

"We're not simply creating a place for someone to go," said James Cameron, a member of the Multiverse Advisory Board. "We're creating a journey for them to go on that will both be exciting and educational."

Development plans call for the creation of several unique instances of the virtual Titanic. "Virtual worlds are the 21st-century way to learn," said Corey Bridges, co-founder and executive producer, Multiverse. "Educational tools as we know them now will fundamentally change in the next decade. What we currently call 'gameplay' will be a significant part of a more personalized learning experience."

Multiverse already have a partnership with Twentieth Century Fox, and are working on a Buffy The Vampire Slayer MMOG. They were previously working on a Firefly MMO, but the plans for this have been delayed.

Zong is Cool. Long Live Zong

Zong has been around for 8 years doing some cool things with mobile micropayments. The company behind Zong is Echovox, a transplant from Europe that is now located in Redwood City. The way it works is like this, you setup your service to accept a mobile payment from Zong which then passes a keycode to a user via SMS that the users then inputs into the service to authenticate the user. With 68 carriers currently active, Zong claims critical mass penetration in North America and Europe, and is bringing Latin America online as well which will move them closer to their 3 billion user goal. Analysts like this company because its mobile payments work with a developed and deployed infrastructure that serves as an effective barrier to entry for potential competitors.

Juniper Research: Total mobile payments to grow nearly ten fold by 2013

According to Juniper Research’s Mobile Payments Study, purchases via mobile devices, contactless NFC transactions and money transfers will together generate transactions worth over $600 billion globally by 2013. This figure represents the gross value of all the items being purchased or the value of money being transferred. While the mobile market today is currently dominated by digital goods purchases such as ringtones, music, games and infotainment, there are three high potential markets which offer major new opportunities for the future: contactless NFC, mobile money transfer and physical goods purchases via mobile devices. Report author Howard Wilcox argues that all segments of the market will see growth over the next five years, driven by both the rapid availability of exciting, easy to use services, and the continued growth, particularly in developing countries. “As well as becoming multifunctional devices for many users, mobiles will become wallets that people won’t leave the home or office without,” he added.

Highlights from the report include:

Global annual gross transaction value will grow over 10 times between 2008 and 2013

Juniper Research’s 2008 forecasts show an increased growth rate of the global mobile subscriber base than previously, with in excess of 1 billion new users by 2013

The top 3 regions for mobile payments (Far East and China, Western Europe and North America) will represent over 70% of the global mobile money transfer gross transaction value by 2013.

The report provides forecasts of the main market segments, regional forecasts of gross transaction values, and also offers profiles of 13 vendors and 17 service providers pioneering in the market. More information is available from Juniper Research’s website.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Linden VP Ginsu Yoon Says "kids and games are just the flavor of the month"

Good article in the Statesman on the proliferation of kiddie virtual worlds and new stuff introduced at Virtual Worlds Expo. It mentions the lineup of kiddie virtual worlds with toy tie ins including Irwin Toys Me2, a new virtual gaming device pedometer that kids can wear during the day and plug into a virtual-world game at night with the amount of "energy" they have to play in the virtual world depends on how much they walked in the real world.´ The article also mentions Hasbro and its latest Littlest Pet Shop VIPs (Virtual Interactive Pets) that kids can play with in the real world and also in a virtual world online and others.

But what struck PaymentGuy was the out of the blue quote from Ginsu Yoon, Linden's VP Business "Affairs" who said;

"Kids and games may rule for now, but Second Life and virtual worlds like it are still very much alive and kicking, said Ginsu Yoon, vice president of business affairs for Second Life creator Linden Lab. "Frankly, (kids and games) are just the flavor of the month,". Yoon is quick to point out that Second Life is a profitable business that's been around for about six years. It has nearly 15 million registered "residents" who can build houses, buy land and trade goods worth millions in real-world dollars every month. But Yoon also acknowledged Second Life is nothing like it was — or what some people expected it would become.

Right! Ok! PG's got it now. Barbie Online, HABBO, Club Penguin, NeoPets, Webkinz, are short term fads - like Pet Rocks, Rubics Cubes and ChiaPets.

OY! Disney, Hasbro, Mattel - your throwing your money away on a fad! The 100 million + kids, moms and dads are naive band-wagoning sheep who live in ignorance of the fact the 3D visual immersive internet of the future is already here but just unevenly distributed. Don't you know that? Ok, gotcha! Thanks for clearing that up.

Oh, by the way, HABBO and Neopets are both lots older than SL.

Hearing a Linden Exec blow off a massive existing and real business opportunity like kiddie / youth / teen / family virtual worlds as flavor of the month is truly astonishing. Especially when LL could get a taste of this with their own Teen world, otherwise known to the select few as Teen Second Life. No wonder Teen Second Life is languishing as a virtual endless-summer-school-pergatory for pointy heads.

Teen SL should be the money making teen virtual launch pad crunching serious dough like Gaia, Nexon, Sulake, GANZ or Disney Interactive rather than just a distraction from the real 3d internet stuff happenin' over at the Grid with the MIT Engineers ... But how could it be if the dudes in charge think kids, teens and mom and dad all over are just fooling around with this just for fun short term kiddie-virtual world fad thing and will eventually start drinking the more sophisticated and serious SL-flavored virtual koolaid any minute now?

The article goes on to talk about Dell and the other companies who have left SL;
"Many companies that invested real money in advertising and online virtual stores on Second Live have pulled the plug. Users who once logged on daily have now found something else to do with their time and money. Dell Inc., for instance, created "Dell Island" on Second Life in November 2006, with high expectations that visitors would go there to meet other Dell users, catch up on company news and — most important — buy computers and equipment. But while the island was created to host 400 avatars, it sometimes has no visitors. Dell gave up trying to sell computers on "Dell Island" because it wasn't worth the cost or trouble, said Laura Thomas, who is responsible for the computer maker's virtual world programs."

On that note, PG thinks LL would be a lot more successful with the enterprise sector if it evolved its strategy from exploring affairs with business and focused on securing and developing serious committed long-term corporate relationships. Maybe even - virtual Gods forbid - business partnerships in real life? Real world old-school meat-space business practice truly works and gets results. Maybe Linden needs an old-school, real life VP of Business "Development" to get this?

All the tech glitches, bugs, scaling probs and other issues aside, PG cannot help think there is something simpler, more fundamental and visceral contributing to the mass exodus of Corporate America and Enterprise Europe from Second Life. Maybe, just maybe, an arrogant, pompous, condescending, know-it-all attitude simply pisses people (and Fortune 500 companies) off?

Servers Servers ... Eve Online vs Second Life

Did you know an Eve Online server can handle 34,420 users at a time, but Second Life maxes a server out with just 160 users? Network capacity also is much more heavily used.