Saturday, September 27, 2008

Who is the ex-Sulake employee now at Valve possibly planning a Habbo Competitor?

Anyone know who this ex-Habbo now at Valve possibly recruiting designers for a HABBO competitor is? From

"Valve logoThe Internet Agency Valve has been all quiet about its plans, but there is something going on about its operations abroad. The agency is a famous flash house in Finland, that has hogged numerous awards from many different competitions. It seems like they have something going on in the US at the moment, more specifically San Francisco. Valve is recruiting game developers and game designers with the work being located either in Helsinki, Finland or San Francisco, US. A guess is that they are looking towards some sort of Flash based social game as they emphasize the need for “good up-to-date understanding of social networks and web-trends“. I’ve heard from an industry insider that the person pulling together team is a former Sulake employee. Sulake is the house behind the world famous Habbo Hotel. An educated guess is that Valve is planning something similar, with a different target market perhaps?"

Here is some recent developments on the Valve Tweehouse initiative

Motley Fool's Fool on the Second Life Economy
This guy at Motley Fool is an idiot. Oops, I meant "fool". The Linden $ has remained remarkably consistent in value given its relation to the usd. Then to conclude the piece at the end of the article he loses all credibility by stating "Corporate usage is also up." Maybe for educators, which is a great thing. But everyone, even fools, know about the mass exodus of Corporate America and Enterprise Europe from SL.

Most of this is simply because of the wrong Lindens running the business side, arrogance, lack of focus, maybe even a little laziness - whatever ... Clearly the Linden strategy of not engaging enterprises directly that wanted to learn about leveraging SL for various business purposes but instead opting to refer them to any SL developer-du-jour was completely stupid. This strategy proved especially ridiculous when many of these SL developers started making more money than Linden itself and used SL-project cash to fund initiatives employing competitive virtual platforms.

See what Christian Renaud says about his interaction, or lack thereof with Linden. It is unbelievable to hear but when Renaud was planning and launching amazing ground-breaking initiatives for CISCO in SL, there was nary the slightest interest or engagement from the "Business Affairs" Lindens;

"In particular, Linden Lab needs to start paying more attention to its big customers. Prior to founding TIG this year, Renaud headed up Cisco Systems' Second Life effort. They have six islands and 1,000 employees in Second Life. But despite the size of the investment, Renaud said he found it difficult to get support from Linden Lab or find someone to talk to."

Fortunately for Linden and its investors, with new CEO Mark Kingdon, Linden is acting more like a business than a Lab now. Linden actually seems to think having a Fortune 50 Giant like CISCO pushing 1000 employees into its virtual world is a pretty good thing worth paying attention too and maybe even helping out with! See PG's related post

Who knows if Linden will ever regain its credibility with business. They certainly pissed off a lot of Corporate USA. Will big business give Linden another chance?

It should. With perfect VOIP, the communication and collaboration potential of the Linden technology is awesome. And the ROI from enterprise use of SL especially for a globally dispersed corporation composed of remote employees encouraged not to travel is virtually impossible to argue against. Linden needs to immediately offer a secure behind the firewall run on your own servers version of SL for Big Business. If it does, PG hopes Big Business gives Second Life a second chance.

Anyway, one of the examples of corporate usage cited by Motley Fool, Starwood Hotels, is especially lame given the Hotel Chain left SL a over a year ago
Here is the fool's article;

Friday, September 26, 2008

What is PayPal?

What is PayPal you ask? Watch the vid!

Making online payment system vids

A good example. PG recommends every payment vendor have an easy to understand video demo. Or you are Fu%&ed!

Selling prepid cards with video - Dame Esa!

This is how to sell prepaid cards with video or tv spots. So cool!

How to duplicate your World of Warcraft Prepaid Card

PG in no way endorses this practice ...

What does Fruugo mean? New World Order!

The answer to Fruugo's intriguing equation 1L + 1M + 1P = 1 Language + 1 Mind + 1 Purpose = Success. Sounds like the New World Order. Or the Age of the Beast ...

In any event, whatever it is supposed to mean, with weird marketing 3.0 formulations like this, no doubt the Fruugo's are going to give the 1 world economy conspiracy crowd a lot to blog about ... pretty scary.

This reminds PG of the greatest wrestling team of all time - WWF NWO - New World Order! Hollywood Hogan, Scott Hall and Big Sexy Kevin Diesel Nash on one team - UBEATABLE!

NWO 4 Life Brotha!

At the end of the day, no matter what the Fruugo code is intended to mean, what the math says, what the reader infers, whatever - one thing is crystal clear: Fruugo's ecom stuff better be damn good if its marketing message is this damn bad (and confusing, and scary, and weird ...).

Oh yeah, Thanks to startup bin for getting the answer.

Stardoll virtual world in-depth

Great article on Stardoll at
titled Stardoll: Casual Web Community or Hardcore Virtual World?

"Tucked away in Room 5 on the ambiguously named “Technology & Results” track at the Virtual Worlds Conference, Matt Palmer and Glenn Ginsburg presented a session titled “Stardoll: The Next Level of Engagement”. Stardoll not only represents the next level of user engagement, it also represents the state of the art in brand integration and virtual goods business models.

Stardoll has over 16 million registered accounts and is adding 35,000 new accounts per day. But Stardoll doesn’t suffer from registered account bloat; the site reaches 7.8 million unique users per month. Those users generate 600 million page views over 35 million visits per month. Even at a modest CPM, that’s a whole lot of revenue, but Stardoll’s business doesn’t rely on banner ads. Instead, Stardoll relies on virtual good sales and integrated sponsorship. As result, they simultaneously achieve a higher revenue per user and provide a better user experience. But more about that later.

Perhaps you’re thinking that this growth must be the product of a massive, expensive, unsustainable media campaign? Not a chance, Stardoll hasn’t spent a dollar on paid media. Growth is driven by viral buzz and press exposure.

Global Appeal

Stardoll is an international phenomenon. It was started by a Finnish woman who wanted to share her passion for fashion with her friends and family. Today, the 60-70 employee company is headquartered in Stockholm, but commands a global audience (44% in the U.S., 46% in Europe, and 10% in Asia). The site has been translated into 15 languages and additional translations, such as Japanese, are on the way.

Girl Power

Not suprisingly, Stardoll’s audience is primarily female (93.1% female, 6.9% male). The site appeals at a universal level to its key demographic - a demographic that has been notoriously difficult to reach in a meaningful way. Stardoll is attaining scale without diluting their core audience; it has the highest concentration of teen girls of any online service. In addition to teenage girls, the site has found a surprising audience - their mothers. 81% of mothers visit Stardoll weekly and 63% visit the site without their daughter. Co-viewership on that scale is virtually unheard of on the web.

Stardoll’s “Gameplay”

Who Knew Putting On Clothes Could Be So Much Fun?

At Microsoft Game Studios, we urged our first party developers to identify their game’s core fun as early as possible. Once that core fun is identified and refined, building a great game is actually pretty straightforward. For Halo, the core fun is aiming and shooting with a variety of well-balanced weapons. For Age of Empires, the core fun is establishing an efficient unit production pipeline. The Stardoll team knows that their core fun is dressing a paper doll. Apparel is dragged off hangers and onto the paper doll. It can be placed anywhere on the screen, and that simple mechanic yields a good deal of fun. Want to give David Hasselhoff that much needed gangsta look? Drag his pants down low. Think it’s about time for Avril Lavigne to ditch that good girl look? Low rise pants and a little cleavage couldn’t hurt.
Stardoll builds on that core fun with an array of thousands of dress-up and make-up options. This gives Stardoll’s entire audience, from Goth girls to Glam chicks, a powerful way to express their unique identities.

From Solitary to Social

Stardoll’s dress-up function acts as the foundation for a broader experience that looks a lot like other virtual worlds. Stardoll users get their own space, called a Suite room, which they can decorate to suit their tastes. A new chat feature lets a user share the dress-up experience by inviting a friend to her Suite room.

The heart of Stardoll is StarPlaza, an online shopping mall that features Stardoll’s internal brands, such as Fudge and Pretty in Pink, and real world brands, such as DKNY. Stardoll also features an active aftermarket, called StarBazaar, where users and buy and sell items in their wardrobe. Basically, its a virtual vintage shop.

To date, all of the apparel and other virtual items in Stardoll have been designed by Stardoll’s creative team. StarDesign is a soon to launch feature that allows Stardoll’s audience to create their own fashions. The combination of StarPlaza, StarBazaar, and StarDesign will enable Stardoll’s users to participate in a rich virtual economy based on the fashion they love. Stardoll’s virtual world features are complemented by features that are more commonly seen in social networks. Each user is given a profile page that looks a lot like a typical social networking profile page. However, due to the site’s younger demographic, the contents of the profile pages are limited. Girls can’t upload photos, but they can express themselves with images of their MeDoll and a variety of profile customization options. Stardoll also features Clubs that are similar to Facebook Groups. The Clubs feature was launched five months ago and there are already over 500,000 Clubs in the system.
Stardoll’s Business

Virtual Goods Done Right

Six figure real estate deals in Second Life and massive gold farming in World of Warcraft are what get the media’s attention when they talk about virtual goods. But Stardoll is the company that has flawlessly unlocked the power of the virtual goods business model. The first key to Stardoll’s success is that they’ve found a genre of virtual items that are truly valuable to their audience. Celebrities and their fashion are an aspirational obsession for millions of people around the world, and Stardoll taps directly into the vein of that obsession. That same insatiable desire to look trendy in the real world translates, without skipping a beat, into the online world. The second key to Stardoll’s success is that they provide an incredibly rich platform with which fashion brands can reach their demographic. As soon as fashions hit the runway or the retail shelf, they are available in Stardoll. If a girl thinks her MeDoll looks cute in that new pencil skirt from DKNY, she can run out that day and grab the very same skirt from her local brick and mortar mall. That same branding extends beyond just apparel. MeDoll make-up is provided under the Sephora brand and jewelry is based on designs from Heidi Klum’s jewelry collection. All of this makes Stardoll one of the most powerful branding and lead generation tools thats ever been available to the fashion industry. They have even had consumers ask when Stardoll’s house brands, such as Pretty in Pink, will be available in brick and mortar stores.

Advertising Done Right

Stardoll doesn’t fall back on banner ads to augment their virtual goods business. Instead, they weave marketing messages into the features of the Stardoll experience and, as a result, create an advertising experience which is fun, engaging, and far more powerful than static banner ads. For example, during a recent advertising campaign for Disney’s movie Enchanted, Stardoll took scenes, characters, and costumes directly from the movie and incorporated them into the world. As a result, Stardoll’s users could immerse themselves in the fiction of the movie and develop an attachment to the movie world before Enchanted even hit screens. In a unique twist on banner advertising, Stardoll offered a poster that users could hang in their Suites. That poster was hung in hundreds of thousands of Suites and generated millions of ad impressions. Stardoll’s approach to advertising generated everything from casual brand impressions to deep engagement in a way that added value to the audience’s experience and was elegantly integrated into the site’s core activities. Stardoll provides a similarly rich branding platform to actors and music artists. Every celebrity featured on Stardoll has their own unique URL so that they can use their Stardoll presence as a promotional vehicle. In addition, Stardoll often runs explicit promotions for celebrities and musicians who are featured on their site. For example, Stardoll recently ran a contest where a member of their audience was flown to an Avril Lavigne concert and got to meet her backstage.

Stardoll’s approach to advertising highlights some important lessons:

* Audiences want advertising, but only for the brands they care about
* Audiences want to chose the brand messages they receive; they don’t want those messages pushed to them
* Just as in the real world, online brand associations are powerful personal identifiers
* Engagement is maximized when branding is woven into the core activities of the site
* Above all else, advertising should be fun for the user, not a distraction

A Model for the Future

Although virtual goods have resulted in extraordinary success in Asia, there has been some doubt as to whether virtual goods would become a mainstream business model in Europe and the U.S. When Cyworld recently close its doors in Europe, some people asked whether virtual goods would ever be relevant outside of Asia. Stardoll is proof positive that virtual goods have a very promising future in Europe and the U.S. The Stardoll team has hit on a recipe that is uniquely engaging to their core demographic, and they are leveraging that recipe to provide maximum value to their users and their advertisers. I’m glad that I stumbled into Room 5 at the Virtual Worlds Conference. Stardoll is defining the future of virtual goods today — and I’m amazed that they’ve flown under the industry radar for so long. Stardoll has captured the attention of 16 million girls around the world, but they don’t even have a Wikipedia page.

Gaia Online collects $1 million month - 40% via prepaid cards

Craig Sherman, who heads Gaia Online, says Gaia collects $1 million every month from players who buy virtual goods ranging from puppy ears to lightning bolts to something called a "coal tavern wench's bustier." PG's sources say 40% of this is via prepaid cards which makes about 400K per month usd or about $5 mill usd for printing your own virtual money - wow!

EVE Online Subscription Fees and Payment Options

PG has gotta ask "Why no bank transfer options for Eve-Online - at least in the EU?" And why is it taking CCP so long to get a prepaid option launched? If I wanted to play Eve, I would be very motivated to "pretend I was from the US" and pay in $ rather than euros. A 12 mo subscription of euro 131.40 is t today's exchange rate $191.850 USD or almost 50% more. Vice versa, that annual fee is about 90 euro! WOW

"The original purchase price for EVE includes thirty days of free game time. A credit card is required to establish your account. MasterCard, Visa and American Express are accepted, as well as a variety of payment options offered through PayByCash™.
To learn more about our subscription rates and plans, read the related section in our FAQ.

Current subsciption plans available:

Cost/month* Total cost*
1-month-plan € 14.95 € 14.95
3-month-plan € 12.95 € 38.85
6-month-plan € 11.95 € 71.70
12-month-plan € 10.95 € 131.40
* VAT included

Outside Europe
Cost/month Total cost
1-month-plan $ 14.95 $ 14.95
3-month-plan $ 12.95 $ 38.85
6-month-plan $ 11.95 $ 71.70
12-month-plan $ 10.95 $ 131.40

Game time cards are now available in Germany and will be sold through major retailers in the US and Europe. Negotiations are underway with distributors. More information will be provided as it becomes available."

Hey CCP! Your losing a lot of money relying on credit cards and prepaids in Germany. So mail PG asap and he will hook you up with some bank transfer good stuff ...

PayByCash Ultimate Game Card

PG is delighted and happy with the success Kevin Higgins and his hard-working persistent crew of payment pros have achieved in a short time with their Ultimate Game Card. Congrats mate!

From VWN " PayByCash announced today that over 50% of its US transactions were coming from its Ultimate Game Card, a prepaid card that supports over 150 virtual worlds and games, like Club Penguin, Nexon America, and IMVU. Previously U.S. consumers favored PayByCash's direct debit options. I think it's a figure worth pointing out, first, because after its recent acquisition by PlaySpan, PayByCash is an increasingly large player in payment options, and, second, because it highlights the increasing importance of prepaid cards." Here is where you can get 'em

Royal Bank of Canada trials SMS payments service

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is trialling a mobile person-to-person payments service that lets customers send and receive money instantly using SMS text messages. The RBC Mobex payment service is being piloted by bank employees and their family and friends until January 2009, with a wider trial expected to follow. To make a payment, participants send a text message to RBC Mobex with the dollar amount and the recipient's mobile number. Funds are then taken from the sender's stored value Mobex account and moved to the recipient, who receives a notification text message. Up to $100 per day can be sent to anyone with a mobile phone serviced by a Canadian wireless carrier, even if they do not have an RBC Mobex account, as long as they have registered for the service. Trial participants can remotely track and manage their account directly from their mobile phone or through the RBC Mobex site to check balances, view payment history and add funds. For transactions of over $25, senders receive a call to verify the transaction with a PIN. Anne Koski, head, payments innovation, RBC, says: "We're testing this mobile phone service to find out if consumers are eager to instantly send and get cash when it's needed most, in an easy but secure manner." RBC says there are no additional fees to use the service but users are subject to any regular bank or wireless carrier charges and fees. Last year the bank teamed with Visa to launch a NFC-based mobile payments trial featuring the card firm's contactless payWave application.

Visa Plans Launches for Google’s Android, Nokia, And Money Transfer

Visa on Thursday said it will introduce transaction alerts and other services that will work with Google Inc.’s new Android operating system for mobile phones. The world’s largest payments network also said it has developed contactless-payment and money-transfer applications for a new handset from Nokia that features near-field communication (NFC) technology. And, in what amounts to a hat-trick of mobile developments, Visa announced it will launch by the end of the year a person-to-person payment pilot with U.S. Bank and other unnamed financial institutions. The breadth of Thursday’s announcements—ranging from money transfer to NFC to services like alerts and merchant offers--comes at a time when many payments executives are struggling to sort out how they should invest in mobile payments. “What Visa is saying is we’re in this for the long haul,” says Robert B. Hedges, managing partner at Mercatus LLC, a Boston-based consulting firm. “They’re trying to build an ecosystem, as opposed to trying to find the killer app. They’re not a startup, so they don’t have to promote the killer app.”

Still, for some observers the latest developments leave some key questions unanswered. While Visa announced it is working with major partners such as Google and Nokia, for example, it said nothing about cooperation with wireless carriers, which specify phones and so control both device and software availability. “Working with handset vendors and ISPs are important steps in developing future mobile financial services, but the critical link to the end user is the mobile operator,” says Nick Holland, senior analyst at Boston-based researcher Aite Group LLC, in an e-mail message to Digital Transactions News. “This is to a certain extent changing with devices like the [Apple] iPhone and the new [HTC] G1 Android device, but keeping the mobile operator in the loop will be critical.” MasterCard Worldwide, meanwhile, sees an element of me-too in Visa’s news. MasterCard this spring announced a handset-based money-transfer service it is launching with mobile-payments processor Obopay Inc. (Digital Transactions News, June 19). “Whenever your competitor copies you, it’s validation that you’re on the right track,” says Simon Pugh, group head of mobile at MasterCard. Still, observers concede Visa’s announcements cover a lot of ground. The network said it will offer by year’s end alerts as well as the capability to send offers from merchants and a locator service as applications that will work on Android, an operating system Google launched this week. Currently, Android is available on the G1, a phone available on T- Mobile’s network that competes with Apple’s iPhone and sells for $179. The phone, made by Taiwan-based HTC Corp., is slated to become available Oct. 22.

The first issuer to offer the downloadable services will be JPMorgan Chase & Co., Visa said, though it added it expects more banks to sign on later. “Through this effort, U.S. consumers will, for the first time, be able to download Visa mobile service applications directly to their handsets,” says Elizabeth Buse, global head of product at Visa, in a statement. Observers say the services, while not strictly payments-based, are likely to encourage greater consumer usage and thus increased transaction volume. The locator service, for example, will be based on Google applications such as Google Maps, and will allow consumers to zero in on stores that send them offers. Similarly, Android will support Google search, a function expected to deliver handset users to merchants and to generate incremental transactions. “Adding extra services to enrich the consumer experience becomes very valuable,” says MasterCard’s Pugh, though he cautions that “it’s too soon to tell what impact [Android] will have on the marketplace.”

To test handset-based person-to-person payments, Visa says it will launch a pilot in which a Visa cardholder can send money via his cell phone to another Visa account holder. The sender will use his mobile browser to reach a secure site where he can initiate the payment. Visa’s switch will manage settlement to the recipient’s Visa account; the recipient can then access the money through ATMs or by making purchases.
The pilot’s first phase will be limited to domestic transfers, Visa says, and will include U.S. Bank and other institutions as well as a maximum of 6,000 account holders. Some time in the first half of next year, the program will expand to international transfers.

With Nokia, Visa will offer NFC-based payment as well as mobile commerce and alerts on the handset maker’s new 6212 Classic phone, which sells for $315 and comes with an integrated NFC chipset. NFC allows consumers to pay for goods at the point of sale by waving or tapping their phones by or on a contactless reader. The phone is intended initially for the European and Asian markets, where NFC payment applications are more advanced than in the U.S.

see also

Visa Extends Mobile Payment Plans

Visa plans to expand its mobile payment service by year's end, including the addition of applications for Google's new Android operating system. Android apps would allow Chase Visa cardholders to receive notification of account transactions, obtain merchant offers and use the platform's GPS technology to find nearby stores to redeem offers and locate ATMs. The company will also create a payment application to let cardholders make mobile payments in retail locations or on the go. Further, Visa will deliver services including contactless payments, money transfers and alerts for Nokia handsets. In another initiative, Visa will partner with U.S. Bank to begin a mobile money transfer pilot program allowing cardholders to send funds directly to another registered Visa customer account. The pilot to start by year's end is the first U.S.-based test of mobile money transfers between Visa accounts. Visa last month launched a pilot program testing real-time transaction alerts sent to mobile phones through SMS text messaging and e-mail

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Virtual world payment trends 2008 - Post 2 (Interactive Toys)

This is the 2nd of PG's post's on 10 payment trends for virtual worlds and mmo's/online games so far in 2008. This time we look at payment trend #1, Interactive Toys. PG could write a treatise on this fascinating emerging payment topic that would be longer than War and Peace. But given most readers are too busy running their payment business or virtual world to read long posts this will be short and to the point. Besides, being a greedy ruthless capitalist PG keeps the detailed good stuff for the inner circle (otherwise known as paying clients ;)). PG is just too cynical and greedy give away free IP.

Anyway, interactive toys as default offline payment methods are a huge market opportunity for any virtual world publisher. This goes for those vw's with a recognizable avatar-brand (Penguin, HABBO, Neopets - of course!) as well as newbies. This is a simple and effective way to differentiate your new and emerging property from the competition. In many respects, an interactive toy, say a plush with a secret code that activates an online pet (ala Webkinz)

or a decorative item for your plush in the form of jewellery with a secret code to decorate and customize your real life plush and online pet (ala Webkinz)

is a truly great way to get eyeballs on your brand in the real world, trigger spontaneous purchases and user adoption and get parental approval for the purchase when it comes to kiddie or youth demos. Viewed as an offline payment method, interactive toys are great. There is no fraud, chargebacks in the form of returns are nominal and the user more closely connects with the avatar through the purchase and customization process. Perfect!

But distribution is key here. I mean, what is the point of having a portflio of innovative interactive toy merchandise connected to an online environment if no one can buy it? So how do you overcome old-fashioned distribution and logistics hurdles?

In Ganz Interactive's case with Webkinz, their original core business was merchandise, novelties, plush and gift-ware sold in "upscale" gift-stores normally found in malls. This unparalleled chintz/gift store distribution network is without equal in North America and was built over 50 years of hard work. Similarly, Ganz pioneered the practice of producing plush toys and giftware in low-cost China way back in the early 79's and figured out neat tricks like how to stuff as many cupie dolls in the back of a cargo plane as possible. So when Ganz launched Webkinz it already had a huge and sophisticated logistics supply and distribution chain for theose adorable plushies.

So how does an upstart virtual world publisher compete? Well, for one thing, finding good reliable Chinese and Taiwanese (they the same thing - right?;)) production of merchandise has never been easier. Anything from vinyl toys to surface to air missiles to rocket ships for space flights, you name it, the Chinese make it faster and cheaper. PG will not give all the contacts he has and names of best producers and suppliers but there is a broad selection of good ones to draw upon.

For very reasonable fees (think dirt cheap) these factories of glorious workers will produce a line of custom toys for your virtual world and ship them over to you in a couple weeks to you for distribution to your retail arm. And how do you develop a retail arm? Of course, it would be pretty impossible to get your line of interactive toys in WallMart or Target by cold calling before everyones kids or teens are playing your games online or know your brand.

That is why you need an agent or better yet, target the niche designer toy store network. And yes, PG has excellent resources on placing merchandise all across North America, EU and ASIA-Pac in boutique toy stores. Think the kind of places that sell designer toys ( or Tod McFarlane figures for example.

PG predicts it will be next to impossible for your virtual world, especially if it is a kiddie or teen virtual world, to achieve mainstream adoption and huge useage if you are not able to offer real life available interactive merchandise and products. For some hints and tips on where PG thinks the industry is headed look at UB Funkeys, Moshi Monsters Bella Sara
and CoolCamels by Napfolt KFT in Hungary ( See also

Think about designing a cool looking little avatar toy, hire a Chinese vinyl sweat-house to make 20,000 vinyl toys at 10 cents each, hang a secret code around their necks, get your devs to give them away to teens in a shopping malls as gifts for their girl/boy-friends and VOILA! Your in the interactive toy business baby! VC's will immediately start lining up to shower you with more money than you can spend.

And when it comes to internationlization and local launches in new and emerging markets, interactive toys as payment methods ARE THE SHIT. Full stop. PG firmly believes the interactive toy is the most innovative and effective payment method for new and emerging markets like the Muslim World and New Europe. Take the Muslim World. At the moment, with the exception of the wealthy Gulf States, online, mobile and prepaid buying and selling is a significant barrier to revenue generation and profitability. This payment obstacle can be hurdled in an innovative way with interactive toys.

PG thinks an interactive toy strategy is the smartest strategy to build a lasting long-term successful brand in new emerging markets. And achieve profitability, stable cash flow and parental "buy-in". So in each new market you target for your virtual world, focus on niche or high-up upscale retail distribution of interactive merchandise (following the Webkinz model) It has to be part of your payment plan if you want to innovate, differentiate, build sticky brand and make money (good old fashioned profits!) Just get it right the first time!
And if you cannot figure this out yourself, from this post and getting your devs to GOOGLE around for info, please drop PG a line. What can you lose? PG guarantees you will make more money - or your money back ;)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Apaja Founder Quits Playray

Seems Asmo Halinen one of the 3 founders of Playray-publisher Apaja is quitting, or as he says in a Jaiku post, "looking for new challenges". Good luck mate. A guy as talented as this should not have trouble finding interesting new gigs. Coverage at the Finnish blog Arctic Startup
PG hopes yesterday's post on Playray's internationalization costs never caused this ;)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How Much Is Internationalizing PlayRay Costing Apaja?

PG often asks himself (or is it itself /herself / themselves)

"Does an aggressive "launch the site in as many new countries and languges as we can" strategy work?"

Apparently, it costs a lot to internationalize virtual worlds. Take Apaja of Finland and its virtual world Playray. PG came across this interesting post from Arctic Startup Blog on Apaja having localized PlayRay in a staggering 16 countries

"In a press released yesterday, Apaja Online Entertainment announced that they will be launching a localised Belgian website of their Playray service with a partnership with Corelio and MTV Networks. At the moment their Belgian website is directing users to France or Netherlands, depending which language and social circle they enjoy more is asking users which language preference they enjoy (edited due to earlier mishap in the analysis - see comments). According to Kim Lindholm, Business Development Director, the Belgian registrations in the French and Dutch services attracted so many Belgians that they had to build localised version of the service in Belgium. Despite being an area where languages mix with ease and people understand each other easily, there are a lot of differences between people in the BeNeLux countries and thus localising each service makes common sense in the long run. A recent survey conducted in Playray revealed that the social aspects of the service are equally important to the casual games. This strengthens the latest understanding of the industry that social gaming is on the rise. Furthermore a third of new registrants are over 35 which also supports the broadening of the user base, in line with previous studies."

The post concludes with this intriguing analysis;

"It remains to be seen how successful such a rapid expansion strategy is. Apaja’s 2007 financial figures are still unpublished in the public listings, but looking at the 2006 results the company ran a loss almost equal to its annual revenue."

The Finnish public listings link for Playray seems active
Any of our Finnish readers know what these numbers mean for English readers?

Franktown Rocks - Cool Kids Music World

PG Loves FrankTownRocks. They recently updated the world with a number of new features including;

1. ability to load up your music player with all kinds of different songs,

2. a new Record Store where you can go to check out new music,

3. a voting system in City Hall where you can vote on the latest city issues (and earn $25 Franks each time you do!),

4. a new game called Guitar Crazy,

5. a drag-and-drop voting system where you can vote on what new products they should make,

6. room and building upgrades,

7. new videos in the Franktown Theater

They were also profiled on the cover of Parents magazine

PG likes the music focus - hey every kid should be exposed and encouraged to play an instrument, sing and dance - and family friendly "parents need to be happy their kids are using this site" approach. Very cool and recommended.