Friday, December 25, 2009

Sulake CTO Gets Testy


Check the exchange generated by http://www.arcticstartup.com/2009/12/17/sulake-fires-28-and-signals-plans-for-facebook/#more-12029;

Sulka
6 days 15 hours ago

“There are no plans on when they will be releasing the application to other countries.”

How about a day before this was published? :)
Reply
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Osma Ahvenlampi
6 days ago

“environment isn’t all that lively inside the company”

Guys, you need to try and check your facts a bit better. How about ASK first? Sure, we’re a lot smaller now, and miss our colleagues, but… Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, MSN Live connectivity (some in UK-only testing), completely new virtual pets with gaming features (biggest feature launched since the whole Flash rewrite), a new virtual goods marketplace (UK testing), launching new stuff every two weeks (twice as frequently as before).. the list goes on. Sometimes it takes painful actions to make a transformation.
Reply

Antti Vilpponen
5 days 23 hours ago

Sulka and Osma, thanks for the comments. Osma, I did not get stuck in the negatives of the story as I undestand they are all natural parts of the process – just as I mentioned in the post. Congrats on the new things coming out, great to hear things are moving forward!

Sulake Shrinks By +28

Good coverage of Sulake's "transition" at Arctic Startup Blog:

Back in October we wrote about the negotiations Sulake was having with its employees about reducing the work force. The plan back then was to reduce the workforce by 20%, which would have meant something along the lines of 40 people. They ended up sacking 28 people, to cut costs, and thus stayed well below the initial plan of 20%. Juhani Lassila, their Communication Exec stated in the Finnish M&M article that the current restructuring and cuts have dramatically improved their profitability. While 28 people were fired, I’ve heard from close sources that others have left the company of their own will and the environment isn’t all that lively inside the company. This of course is completely natural when a startup that has grown to a multinational gaming house has its first real employee negotiations and ends up cutting its workforce by this much. Not all things are bad. The Finnish teen power house has revealed plans to integrate Habbo Hotel deeper into Facebook with their new FB application. The application is a simple port of the real Habbo Hotel. Sulake has also finally included the Facebook login on their Habbo Hotel sites globally, which means there’s a shot at better registration conversions as people have a quick way to sign-up. I have to say that it does amaze me how long it has taken Sulake to go forwards with this step. Sulake is currently piloting the Facebook application in the UK market, however not limiting it artificially to UK users only. You can find it in Facebook and test it out for yourself. The application has over 40 000 monthly users which is a clear sign that the plan to integrate into Facebook works. There are no plans on when they will be releasing the application to other countries. It might not matter in the end as most of the innovative users no doubt have already found it and have started building their presence there. http://www.arcticstartup.com/2009/12/17/sulake-fires-28-and-signals-plans-for-facebook/#more-12029

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Women Tire of Credit Cards


http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/permalink/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20091222005113&newsLang=en

What is WePay?

So what exactly does WePay do that PayPal can’t? The difference stems from the way payment accounts are set up. With PayPal, your account is tied to your name, without any way to separate the payments associated with your soccer team from those of your fraternity or your own personal transactions. On WePay, you can create a unique, FDIC insured account for each of these. The account is still associated with your name, but you can keep each group account totally separate. This gives you much more freedom than you’d have otherwise. If you want to share your fraternity’s transaction history with the entire group, you can do that without having to worry about a personal transaction ever popping up. The site comes with controls for specifying who can have access to these histories. There’s much more to WePay, of course. The site can also fully manage the payments to and from each of these accounts. If you need to collect money from your soccer team, you can automatically shoot an Email to each player informing them how much they owe. They can pay immediately through the website using a credit card or direct account transfer, or they can submit a check. If they don’t pay soon, the site will automatically remind them a few days later. If you’re managing a WePay account, you can also sign up to receive a special WePay credit card that draws directly from the shared account. WePay makes money by charging a 3.5% transaction fee (there’s also a different plan that charges 50 cents per transaction and limits you on the methods of payment you can accept). WePay looks like it could be a winner. The company is solving a problem that nearly everyone has had to deal with, and they’ve got a proven way to make money doing it. Look for their launch early next year. http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/12/23/wepay-group-payments/

Cash is King ...


"On PayPal, eBay's online payment unit, the number of cash gifts through PayPal Send Money grew 164% from June to December. Start-up Lottay.com, an online gift-giving service that is a partner of PayPal, says the number of cash gifts given through its site has increased eight times since November, to 1,043 in December. This month, Lottay users requested $11.2 million in cash.

In a consumer survey, money transfer giant Western Union concluded cash is the most desirable holiday gift this year. More than half the respondents, 53%, said they knew someone who preferred cash to pay for daily expenses, such as gas and groceries. "The best gifts are the ones most wanted and needed, and this year, that gift is cash," says Jorge Consuegra, senior vice president of U.S. product management at Western Union. That notion is borne out by the Consumer Reports holiday shopping poll. The most common gifts consumers plan on giving this season are gift cards (46%), money (44%) and toys (42%). The cash dash does not end there. Online payments provider eBillme says another major trend is paying for gifts with cash and debit cards.

"Consumers are going back to basics: They are using cash across the board," says eBillme CEO Marwan Forzley. Credit card spending on holiday presents is down $100 a person as consumers increasingly buy gifts with more cash and debit cards, says Ed Farrell, director of market research for Consumer Reports. http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2009-12-23-cash-gifts_N.htm

Consumer Payment Method Survey - Very Good

"The average consumer has 5.1 of the nine instruments, and uses 4.2 in a typical month. Consumers make 53 percent of their monthly payments with a payment card (credit, debit, and prepaid). More consumers now have debit cards than credit cards, and consumers use debit cards more often than cash, credit cards, or checks individually. Cash, checks, and other paper instruments are still popular and account for 37 percent of consumer payments." http://www.bos.frb.org/economic/ppdp/2009/ppdp0910.htm

Merry Christmas!

Koreans Dump Second Life


Barunson Games, Linden Lab's business partner responsible for localizing the service for Korean market announced on November 13 that they are giving up Second Life Korea, citing that the service has failed to attract the interest of Korean users. Korea, along with Japan, has been notoriously difficult market to break into for many global online service companies, as their local markets remain heavily guarded by the home-grown online powerhouses. It is doubtful, however, if those western online brands did enough to understand and assimilate into the unique local cultures. In the case of Second Life, Koreans have already been enjoying their own virtual realities in the form of Lineage and other online games. The target market of Second Life Korea has largely overlapped with those online gamers--the male online users in their 20's to 30's.For those groups basking in their own brand of virtual space, Linden Lab might have had a better chance in Seoul if they redesigned Second Life as an interactive game space, where users are allowed to play with some elements more attuned to the real-life narratives. What about Monopoly reincarnated as an massively distributed online games?

Linden Lab has instead slapped in their face another brutal virtual reality, whereas Korean gamers were searching for an escape from the harsh reality of daily life, as J.C. Herz noted in her Wired article five years ago. Looking back, the default setting of Second Life's party style virtual stages, where users are roaming around looking for a potential date, friend or partner, looked and felt quite strange to many Koreans from the very start. If you really want to get connected with new friends here, you and other attendees would usually sit around the dinner table and drink soju together for hours. That is how you make new friends in Seoul. http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?at_code=437657&no=385825&rel_no=1

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Metaplace Closes


Metaplace, the brainchild of former Sony Online Entertainment creative exec Raph Koster, will cease service effective January 1, 2010. In a message to users, Koster wrote, "Unfortunately, over the last few months it has become apparent that Metaplace as a consumer user-generated content service is not gaining enough traction to be a viable product, requiring a strategic shift for our company." Metaplace with throw itself one last party, in-world, on New Year's Day; the company will then transition to another format, something Koster has yet to detail. The company will cease billing of users immediately and refund fees paid for virtual items and subscriptions paid in December. Metaplace, an open platform for creating virtual worlds, spawned over 70,000 individual worlds. All that comes to an end in just over a week.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Zong Wins


Zong received Frost & Sullivan's 2009 Best Practices Award for New Product Innovation in the Mobile Payments category. "Zong was the clear winner in the mobile payments category, as they delivered a smooth and flexible payment mechanism -- evidence to Frost & Sullivan of their ability as a company to innovate and continue to penetrate their market." Frost & Sullivan is a research and consulting firm that covers 10 industries and 31 markets, and maintains 31 offices with more than 1,700 industry consultants, market research analysts, technology analysts, and economists globally.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

NOKIA Money Is A Winner


Nokia Money, the new mobile financial service, was awarded as a world-changing idea for 2010 by Wallpaper* Magazine and Wolff-Olins on December 15, in London. The “Top 10 innovations from 2009 that will succeed in 2010- award” is granted to the key trends and changes for the year ahead, identified by a senior level of selected panel of judges. Out of 400 submissions 40 were selected for the final round and the winning 10 are being published in Wallpaper January, 2010 issue. Check the YouTube demo here;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huv689YaPCM

Friday, December 18, 2009

mPayy Launches Free Android Mobile Pay App

mPayy has announced the availability of its mobile payments application in the Android marketplace for all phones that run the Android operating system. mPayy says it "enables free person-to-person payments between members, and low cost merchant processing through its new Android application." There are no costs for opening an mPayy account or making payments. Personal account-holders can receive free mobile payments while small business account-holders pay merchant processing fees.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NOKIA Needs to Do This Too


http://www.kzero.co.uk/blog/?p=3602
UK-based Little World Gifts is developing a range of virtual goods available for gifting to others. The virtual goods are all 3D and allow the recipients to interact with them. The iPhone app is being released this month (ready for Xmas) and will also have Facebook integration, tapping into the $40m virtual gifting revenue stream.

Private Label Credit Cards?


... AVOID! http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/12/your-money/credit-and-debit-cards/12cards.html

Xoom Expands 18 Euro Countries


SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Xoom.com, the fastest growing online money transfer company, announced today the launch of money transfer service to Denmark, Norway and Switzerland. Consumers can now wire money to any bank in Denmark, Norway or Switzerland. The money is deposited directly into the receiver's account, making it convenient for the receiver to get the money. "Xoom.com provides customers with a faster and more convenient way to wire money to Denmark, Norway and Switzerland. With Xoom.com, consumers can now wire money to any bank account in these countries without the hassle of waiting in line at the bank," said Iain Allison, vice president of European business development for Xoom.com. With the current market bank-to-bank wire transfer fees ranging from $25 to $45, Xoom.com offers a significantly lower fee of $4.99 to transfer any amount, up to $2,999, to Europe. Receiving banks do not charge a fee when money is sent using Xoom.com.

Wiring money with Xoom.com to any bank account in Denmark, Norway or Switzerland is simple. Consumers can visit the Xoom.com secure website at www.xoom.com, enter sender information, recipient information including bank account details, and the amount to wire. To fund the transaction, consumers can use a bank account, credit/debit card or PayPal. Xoom.com offers money transfer services to other European countries including Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

About Xoom.com

Xoom.com allows individuals to wire money from any Internet-enabled computer to family, friends and businesses worldwide. Xoom Corporation was founded in 2001 in San Francisco and is backed by leading venture firms Sequoia Capital, New Enterprise Associates, and Fidelity Ventures. For more information about the Xoom.com money transfer service to Denmark, Norway or Switzerland, visit www.xoom.com. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/xoomcom-launched-online-wire-transfer-services-to-denmark-norway-and-switzerland-79293887.html

EBillMe is a Good Alternative to Paypal


Check em out ...
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/17/send-cash-through-twitter-with-twitpay/

Finally! A Twitter Payment App ...


https://twitpay.me/ Twitpay is a start-up that aims to allow people to send small payments through Twitter. To do this they include the recipients’ username in their message. For example, posting the update “@johnsmith twitpay $10 for lunch” would deliver the cash to that Twitterer’s Twitpay account. The company monitors the public stream of messages for the keyword “twitpay” and facilitates the exchange. You replenish your Twitpay account using a site like PayPal. Once recipients have accumulated more than $10 in their accounts, the balance can be cashed out in the form of an Amazon gift card. For all transfers exceeding $1, Twitpay will take a flat cut of 5 cents.


In its simplest form, the service is a quick way to settle a lunch tab or pick up a round of drinks on a friend’s birthday. But Michael D. Ivey, its chief executive and co-founder, says it could also make it easier to donate money during a disaster like Hurricane Katrina or an earthquake. “Ideally we want to enable social giving on Twitter,” he said. “But beyond that, we could enable charitable giving, such as to the Red Cross. We’re very excited to be able to help people do good over Twitter.”

Along with many of the third-party applications that make use of Twitter’s platform, Twitpay has no official ties to Twitter, which allows people to post messages up to 140 characters in length. But along with the Shorty Awards, Mr. Tweet and the multitude of other sites and third-party applications springing up around the platform, Twitpay is another example of the way Twitter is forming an ecosystem of its own. The service is still in a trial phase, but Mr. Ivey said the company was actively working to obtain financing and is in discussions with several groups.
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/17/send-cash-through-twitter-with-twitpay/

eCommerce is 10 Years Old Says EBay CEO

"E-commerce is 10 years old, but it is still in its infancy," eBay CEO John Donahoe said in a wide-ranging, hour-long interview last week. The four-year eBay veteran, who was named to succeed Meg Whitman as CEO in January 2008, has been on a 20-month mission to turn around the Silicon Valley icon, which popularized online auctions for millions of people worldwide. His efforts recently resulted in the first quarterly revenue increase at eBay in a year. E-commerce accounts for only 5% of all retail sales but will soar to 15% to 20% in five years, as more consumers conduct transactions via mobile phones and the Internet, Donahoe says. EBay anticipates more than $500 million in mobile-based application revenue this year, mostly through the iPhone. The eBay app has been downloaded more than 5 million times.
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2009-12-15-ebay15_ST_N.htm?csp=34&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+UsatodaycomMoney-TopStories+%28Money+-+Top+Stories%29

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Currency Connect Launches


Two successful online sites are getting together to encourage their users to adopt the other’s services. IMVU and myYearbook are setting up a virtual currency exchange so that users from either service can exchange currency between the sites. The deal is significant because it is a step toward a universal virtual currency, which could have profound implications for the economies of games and virtual worlds, creating the ability for fluid movement between different sites. IMVU runs a site where teens and young adults make 3-D avatars and chat with each other in their own customized rooms. myYearbook runs a social network for young people. Both have millions of users who are spending money for virtual items. Under the deal, users can exchange 200 myYearbook “lunch money” coins for one IMVU credit. Created by myYearbook, the system is called CurrencyConnect and it will be launched in the first quarter of next year. myYearbook is currently recruiting other partners to participate in the exchange program.

Cary Rosenzweig, chief executive of Palo Alto, Calif.-based IMVU, said in an interview that the exchange will be good for both companies in marketing to new users. Neither company is worried about losing its users to the other site, since it’s common for users to join multiple sites, Rosenzweig said. Geoff Cook, chief executive of myYearbook, said his company is open to recruiting numerous sites. But both noted they have to be careful about who they invite to join. If they invited a site with gambling games, for instance, they would have to be careful about scrutiny of anti-gambling regulators. It’s OK to have poker games, for instance, if there is no way for the players to cash out their chips. But if the players can convert their coins into a virtual currency that can be converted into cash, then the regulators would cry foul. Accordingly, the Lunch Money from myYearbook can only be converted into promotional IMVU credits, which cannot be cashed out. “Part of the secret sauce is to limit the potential for abuse,” Cook said. Some of the safeguards include limiting how much currency someone can convert in a given day. At the moment, the currency exchange rate is fixed between the two sites. But it’s possible the rate could float and the companies will study the results of the ongoing currency exchanges. The benefits are a lot like using tokens in mall arcades. When users had tokens to spend, they were far more likely to try out new games they hadn’t considered before. “You can unlock silos of currency and encourage experimenting,” Rosenzweig said. There are potential competitors. PlaySpan, for instance, provides a virtual goods platform for game companies and others to adopt. It has its own currency that can be used across games. But with the Currency Connect deal, sites can cut out such middlemen. http://digital.venturebeat.com/2009/12/15/imvu-and-myyearbook-set-up-virtual-currency-exchange/

AOL Dumping Bebo, ICQ

AOL, which recently went through a major realignment as well as UI has reportedly put two notable AOL brands, instant messaging service ICQ and social network Bebo, on the selling block. The Wall Street Journal, citing "people familiar with the matter" is reporting that Facebook investor DST is negotiating for ICQ, while Bebo, a recent AOL acquisition and one which recently built out its game offerings through a Social Games Experience section, has unnamed suitors.

The Russians Are Coming!


SAN FRANCISCO — The Russian firm that invested more than $200 million in Facebook this year is making another bet on the United States Internet industry. Digital Sky Technologies, or D.S.T., an investment firm with offices in Moscow and London, is leading a group that is buying a $180 million stake in Zynga, a fast-growing San Francisco company whose online games, like FarmVille, CafĂ© World and Mafia Wars, are extremely popular on Facebook. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/technology/internet/16game.html?hp

AMEX Zync Card

http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/08/american-express-zync-will-young-adults-want-a-charge-card/

Blippy Opens Up Credit Card Transactions


As the Internet matures, slowly but surely everything we do in the real world is going social. But there’s a limit to how much information we can explicitly share on all the various services. A new service, Blippy, launching today in private beta, has an interesting way to take something you do everyday, buy things with your credit card, and automatically push those transactions online for others to see and interact with.
http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/12/11/blippy/
"“The big question that Blippy answers is ‘What are your friends buying?‘,” co-founder Philip Kaplan (also known in the tech circle as “Pud”) explains. That is of course a take off of Twitter’s question “What are you doing?” — which was recently replaced by “What’s happening?” The key to all of those questions is simplicity. And despite being a concept that you have to think about the ramifications of, Blippy is perhaps even more simple because it employs what Kaplan dubs “passive sharing.” Again, you aren’t explicitly sharing anything via something like a message, your actions (buying things with your credit card) are being automatically pushed to the web. “Blippy provides transparency into normal everyday things,” Kaplan continues. This actually fits in perfectly with something Twitter CEO Evan Williams recently tweeted: “Many of the great businesses of the next decade will be about making information about our behaviors more visible.”

Obopay Launches iPhone App


Obopay has announced that its Obopay mobile payments application is now LIVE on the Apple App Store and available for free download. "By delivering a rich, user friendly experience, Obopay’s iPhone mobile payment application is unparalleled in the market today. Advanced features include push notifications and family-centric money management tools that enable parents to monitor children’s spending and make real-time transfers to/from family accounts. Children can send requests for emergency money to their parents and receive it in seconds. In addition, it is ideal for small merchants who will benefit from the push requests, advanced history display and tracking capabilities."

Navigation Capital Partners Acquires Prepaid Solutions USA


Navigation Capital Partners, an Atlanta-based middle market private equity firm, has announced that it has acquired the assets and associated liabilities of Prepaid Solutions USA via newly-formed entity Prepaid Solutions, Inc. (PPS). Prepaid Solutions USA was a division of West Suburban Bank (WSB), a Chicago area-based community bank and wholly-owned subsidiary of West Suburban Bancorp, Inc. WSB's Prepaid Solutions USA division was founded in 2001.

PPS is a payments company offering comprehensive prepaid/debit solutions for corporate America, self-banked and under-banked consumers. Solutions include payroll, general-purpose reloadable, performance, incentive, reward and gift. NCP has appointed Ken Goins and Eric Ohlhausen as the new CEO and CFO of PPS, respectively. Dan Grotto, the head of WSB's Prepaid Solutions USA division prior to the transaction, will serve as president of PPS. NCP partnered with Goins and Ohlhausen through the firm's Executive-in-Residence program to source the opportunity. NCP's Executive-in-Residence program is the firm's approach of identifying experienced leadership within an industry attractive for investment, and then searching for the right company to acquire as a team. The transaction also leverages NCP Operating Partner O.G. Greene's more than 20 years of payments industry experience including Skylight Financial, Inc., National Data Corporation and First Financial Management.
http://www.paymentsnews.com/2009/12/navigation-capital-partners-acquires-prepaid-solutions-usa.html

MOL Buys Friendster to Create Huge eCommerce Network

This is interesting; http://www.thesundaily.com/article.cfm?id=41269 Malaysian-based payment on line company MOL Global's purchase of social networking site Friendster has won praises from industry observers http://global.mol.com/global/portal/en/default.aspx. Media, the marketing and communications newspaper for Asia Pacific, in its on-line report today, quoted the observers as saying that it is a company like MOL, and not another social network, that will advance Friendster's status in the future. Yesterday, MOL Global confirmed it was buying 100% of Friendster and that the deal would be finalised by year end.

In a statement, Friendster said this would effectively create "Asia’s largest end-to-end content, distribution and commerce network, pairing MOL’s off-line retail channel partners and payment platform with Friendster’s large online footprint, social network and user community in Asia". Friendster’s head of Asia Ian Stewart told Media that, because the website is looking to differentiate itself through its digital payment service, the merger makes sense because MOL is the company that is best able to improve this side of its business and has the clearest reach to Friendster’s cache of Southeast Asian users. "This deal consolidates the business direction of the company. We believe that having a strong virtual-currency offering will better connect users to the Facebook virtual store, and then into our gaming aspects and music. Through payment mechanisms, Friendster can become a social-shopping platform, kind of like eBay but on a social network," he said.

The report said Friendster and MOL first began working together in October, when MOL was enlisted to develop an integrated payments platform that would lay the foundation for the Friendster Wallet and the Friendster Gift Shop. Stewart said this partnership demonstrated MOL’s dominant positioning in Southeast Asia, "and in the last two months of the acquisition process, MOL joined the conversation." "We were gravitating to the virtual payment possibilities, and with geographic reach and users’ attraction. MOL was obviously going toward that expansion, and when we were going through the acquisition process, we were looking for a partner who would fit these criteria as much as possible," he explained. From July, when Friendster first announced its intentions to be acquired, the company has been vocal about wanting to find an Asian-based suitor. Friendster has made strides in centralising its operations in the region to accommodate its strong user base here: Asia makes up more than 90% of Friendster’s audience, and it claims a leading position in Southeast Asia. Friendster is still the number one social networking site in the Philippines.

The Media report said rumours recently circulated of Tencent’s interest in the site, as reports noted that the Chinese online giant was on Friendster’s acquistision shortlist. Reports additionally cited Facebook as a potential early contender for the company, though hurdles related to competition and intellectual property rights prohibited further negotiations. But according to regional analysts, Friendster did well to partner with a firm that would most adequately advance its operations and allow it to advance its brand. "I think it was a brilliant idea – combining a platform that has immense social reach with a group of very influential connectors, and then making it easy for audiences to engage via e-commerce," said vice-president of business development for Adify, Andrew Tu. "I think it’s a marriage made in heaven because, when you look at an acquisition, you need to look at the synergistic components that can help you grow, more than just expanding your reach." Jeremy Woolf, managing consultant of Text 100, also said Friendster’s move was a smart one because it enables the site to connect more effectively with local audiences, which will be key to its long-term success. "This is Friendster fishing where the fish are – it is centralising the company where it has the greatest population of users and will work with a company that will preserve the brand," he said. "It will solidify Friendster's future as a niche, hyper-local social network." Stewart noted that Friendster’s focus on micropayments would give it an operating model that is more parallel to those of Japan's Mixi, Korea's Cyworld and Tencent's QQ rather than globally focused social networking sites like Facebook. "Looking to micropayments and focusing on localised research and development makes a lot of sense," said Mindshare’s regional business director Brian Stoller. "Look at QQ’s success – QQ makes its money through micropayments and financial transactions, and its earnings aren’t based on advertising. Focusing on this and working with a Malaysian company that specialises in it is very good on its behalf."

PlaySpan Virtual Goods Study


The survey collected data on the virtual goods buying habits of 2,425 randomly selected users of PlaySpan's product line (the PlaySpan marketplace, Spare Change, and the Ultimate Game Card).

New data revealed in the report includes the finding that 80% of users who make a virtual goods purchase do so in order to use the item in their game themselves. Only 20% of virtual goods buyers will purchase items with intent to give them to another player as a gift. Two-thirds of buyers purchase virtual goods about once per month, with one-quarter purchasing as often as once per week. Only 7% of those responded purchased every day. Likewise, only 12% stated they purchase virtual goods only once per year.

Users who avoid purchasing virtual goods sold by other players or by third-party sites do so out of fear. 42% of respondents said they would not purchase from third-party sites because it would be a TOS violation that could close their account, while another 42% said they wouldn't make such purchases due to fear of being scammed. Only 9% of respondents indicated that they simply didn't know how or where to make virtual goods purchases from third-party sites. PlaySpan interprets these results as a concrete demand among players for safe, sanctioned secondary marketplaces like its own. The complete version may be downloaded from PlaySpan http://corp.playspan.com/pressroom.html.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Here Come The Japanese!


Interactive toys that is ... "Bandai America Incorporated, the US arm of the Japanese toy company, is wrapping its arms around the Internet in a big way by including strong internet tie-ins for all major toy launches. Bandai, already a leader in introducing Japanese toys to the U.S., is expanding its dominance in the boys market to the girls category. Core to that effort is the integration of online elements into the majority of these toys, including a brand new Tamagotchi product and Harumika, a doll clothing design product." http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2009/12/bandai-america-launching.html

Western Union & InComm Hook Up for Prepaid Money Transfer Service

Western Union and InComm have announced an agreement to offer the Western Union GoCashSM service, a new U.S. in-lane prepaid money-transfer service from Western Union.
http://www.paymentsnews.com/2009/12/western-union-incomm-partner-for-prepaid-money-transfer-service.html

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More on Rosedale's Love Machine

Six years after creating Second Life, Philip Rosedale announced that he would be focusing on a new project. Shrouded in mystery, the Linden Chairman and fellow Lindenite Ryan Downe began work in October on Love Machine Inc. Said Rosedale in today's blog post, "Yes, we are working on making a version of the Linden Lab LoveMachine (and some other tools too)...hopefully we can sell [this] to some companies and help them out." ReadWriteWeb sought to answer the immortal question - What is love?

LoveMachine is best known amongst Linden employees as a method of peer review. According to a 2006 Second Life Herald article, it was once used as a points-based employee incentive tool. Linden employees gave and received "love" for a job well done. If an employee was well-received amongst his or her peers, their accumulated love currency was redeemable for a cash bonus at the end of the month. Similar to social capital systems like Whuffie Bank, it appears that LoveMachine may become a reputation currency system for businesses.http://www.readwriteweb.com/readwritestart/2009/11/second-life-founder-launching.php

EA Launches Prepaid Visa Debit Card


Electronic Artshas announced that it has "made it easier for loyal gamers to buy their favorite EA SPORTS™ titles with the launch of the first-ever EA SPORTS branded prepaid debit card. The reloadable prepaid debit card enables users to receive a percent back from every purchase at thousands of brick-and-mortar and online retailers to redeem points (“EA SPORTS Rewards Points”) that can be used to purchase select EA SPORTS game titles."

Well, Sony has one, so why can't EA? According to GameSpot, this Visa-branded card can be used at "thousands of brick-and-mortar and online retailers," and that includes the likes of Macy's, Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, iTunes and more. Featured with the card is the Rewards Points program; card holders will receive 100 points per $1 in "rewards back" offered by each merchant. Basically, if you go and spend $100 and the retailer offers 2% rewards back, that'll net you 200 points. What can those points be redeemed for? Why, EA Sports games, of course! Starting on December 15, you can use your accumulated points to purchase those titles through the publisher's web site; PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 games go for 6,500 points and you'll need 5,500 points for Wii titles. You can dump more money onto your card in any number of ways (direct deposit, funds from your checking account, etc.), and you're only restricted to a maximum daily deposit of $950 and and a monthly amount of $4,500. You do have to pay a $1.99 monthly fee but besides that, there's really no reason to pick one up if you find yourself spending a lot of money on EA Sports products each year. Some time in the future, a hardcore gamer is gonna open his wallet and you'll see cards for EA, Activision, Microsoft, Square-Enix, etc.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Blizzard Finally Sells Virtual Items In World of Warcraft


Blizzard finally offers virtual goods for purchase in its MMORPG World of Warcraft. The first wave of virtual items for sale are a pair of virtual pets that have no mechanical in-game purpose, but instead strike amusing poses while let out for display. Each pet costs $10, with 50% of the proceeds from one of the two pets going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation if it is purchased before December 31, 2009.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Linden Lab Outsources Non-US Payment Services


Dragonfish signed a deal last month with Second Life to provide numerous services including payment processing, anti-fraud, and customer support management. This basically outsources Linden's payment management business. Dragonfish is the business-to-business arm of 888, an online casino, launched earlier this year. Second Life is Dragonfish's first virtual world client, as the company usually deals with online gambling services. "Dragonfish has a strong track record in unlocking new markets through its unique and secure payment processing solutions, and as Second Life continues to grow internationally, we're pleased to work with them to provide easy and secure payment options for our users outside the US," said Mark Kingdon, CEO of Second Life parent company Linden Lab, in a press statement. http://www.massively.com/2009/11/18/linden-lab-partners-with-dragonfish-for-non-us-payments-processi/

Vindicia Adds PayPal to CashBox


Vindicia has has integrated PayPal with its billing solution, CashBox. Vindicia supports both PayPal Express Checkout and PayPal's recurring billing solution. According to the company, "these new features, in addition to the company's best-of-breed processor support and additional capabilities such as offer management, sales tax calculation, automated payment retry logic and fraud screening, provide a compelling billing experience for online vendors." http://www.paymentsnews.com/2009/12/vindicia-adds-paypal-to-cashbox.html

Peanut Labs Survey on The Infamous "Offer Debate"


Here is an interesting read about the Shukla/Arrington debate at VGS.
Here are the results of a survey Peanut Labs ran - interesting: http://peanutlabs.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/survey-finds-arrington-has-a-point-given-choice-users-overwhelmingly-prefer-direct-payments-and-research-surveys-to-cpa-offers/

Zynga Launches PetVille & Retires GoPets


Zynga, which aquired GoPets http://paidcontent.org/article/419-report-zynga-adds-virtual-pets-to-roster-with-gopets-acquisition/ launched PetVille. As the name implies, PetVille is Zynga's entry into the time-tested but crowded "virtual pet" genre of social game. Users can adopt and play with virtual pets, earning items to customize their virtual homes and appearances. What is curious about the sudden launch of PetVille is that, technically speaking, Zynga was already operating a virtual pet game-- until about a month ago.

Zynga purchased GoPets about one month ago, according to statements made by GoPets founder Erick Bethke. A cursory glance at screenshots of GoPets and PetVille make it clear that the two games are very different, with GoPets 3D virtual world exchanged for simpler 2D graphics in PetVille. So why did Zynga purchase one of the Web's most popular virtual pet games only to shut it down and release something completely different a month later?
http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2009/12/this-week-zynga-unleashed-its-latest-social-game-petville--as-the-name-implies-petville-is-zyngas-entry-into-the-time-test.html#more

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ukash Deal &Spendon Open 500 More Access Points

Ukash has signed a deal with Spendon, a product of the Swedish Convenient Card AS company, which will make Ukash available in more than 500 additional new outlets in Sweden. Ukash vouchers, which allow consumers to shop online anonymously using cash, will now be available in over 300 Pressbyran kiosks and all 200 7Eleven branches found inside Shell petrol stations. Swedish customers who do not have access to credit and debit cards or those that are fearful of online fraud will be able to exchange cash for Ukash vouchers available in denominations of SEK 100, SEK 250, SEK 500 and SEK 1 500 and use them to shop, pay and play online. Ukash has an existing presence in Sweden, with over 2 000 points of purchase. Ukash vouchers are available through payment terminals in retail outlets across Europe, South Africa and Australia and are also issued online from the company’s website in selected European territories. Most recently, the company introduced its e-cash product on the Ukrainian market as a result of a collaboration with commercial bank PrivatBank.

Convenient Card is a company jointly owned by the PayEx group and Reitan Servicehandel, offering various payment services for the retail and service industries in Sweden. http://www.recentpoker.com/news/ukash-5350.html

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Are Virtual Worlds Good Investments?


The short answer is NO. Any VC who invests in a closed, 1stop virtual world concept these days is wasting their money. The space is simply too crowded. Especially on the kiddie, youth, teen side. You would be better off throwing darts trying to predict the future than trying to pick the next big virtual world for teens or kids.

Why is that?

Simple, the industry is mature (virtual worlds are mainstream entertainment - Got it??? - and instead of their being 10 big virtual worlds with millions of users there will soon be hundreds of virtual worlds with 100's of thousands of users) and technology (any small group of devs can pop up a virtual world) cheap and available (think flash). So where are the investment opps in this massive space with 450mill+ users?

1. Platforms - think technology that is disruptive and can be licensed to devs to build stuff like http://www.yogurt3d.com/

2. Payment Systems - the reliable tried and true proven to make money off web sites like Ukash http://www.ukash.com/global/en/home.aspx, Global Collect and Wallie www.wallie.com

3. Interactive Toy Manufacturers And Distributors - if Howard Ganz will not sell you any of Webkinz World, think startups like Shidonni http://www2.shidonni.com/ http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2009/11/shidonni-mixes-plush-with-pixels.html

4. Mobile virtual worlds - Think MoiPal http://www.moipal.com/index.jsp and .......hmmmmmmmm no one else comes to mind other than LOSER Bobba http://paymentguy.blogspot.com/2009/10/kill-bobba-now.html - thus the opportunity!
5. Mixed reality stuff - think Twinity http://www.twinity.com/en Johan Brenner, formerly of Benchmark now Balderton, is on the Board. This is a mirror world with an augmented reality approach.
6. Virtual Currency Guru's - companies that can figure out how to consolidate, trade and sell all these weird and wacky virtual currencies under 1 system and across social networks (think Peanut Labs for example http://paymentguy.blogspot.com/2009/10/stop-working-for-peanuts.html ... . Know any? Drop PG a line ...

Has Philip Rosedale Lost It? Linden Love Machine Launches


... all we need is LOVE! Well, for now only 2 guys, Philip Rosedale and Ryan Downey (both former colleagues at Linden Lab and also best friends in real life) need is each other in their new venture called Love Machine. This looks and sounds crazy. And it just may be perceived to be so by the business community at large. Clearly, the deliberately weird and unorthodox web presence and blog of Love Machine Inc. http://www.lovemachineinc.com/Home would probably not inspire many Fortune 500 HR VP's to launch a Love Machine Inc. product any day soon.

But there is more going on than meets the eye here. Linden's LOVE Machine as a tool is easy to do. It is pretty much just a simple hack. It is based on Jira; http://www.atlassian.com/software/jira/. Are you familiar with Jira? You should be if your in IT. Jira is a product of Aussie Software House Atlassian Pty Ltd. Here are some links on Atlassian's Jira product and the Linden customized LOVE Machine application;

http://blogs.atlassian.com/news/2006/06/jiras_second_li_1.html


http://blogs.atlassian.com/news/2006/12/love_grows_in_c.html


http://www.atlassian.com/software/jira/casestudies/linden.jsp


The Linden application is very straightforward. Users email thanks (LOVE) with a limited number of characters (PG understands it is 180 character maximum, about the size of a standard SMS - 160) to other Linden's at the LOVE machine site / Jira portal at Linden's Intranet. Both the sendor and receiver, and the message content are transparently displayed. However, the users statistics (ie, the amount of thanks / LOVE sent and received, and the details thereof) is only available to admins and the user him or herself.

In Linden's 1st version of the LOVE machine only details regarding the message sent and the identity of the receiver were public. But about a year ago the LOVE Machine was updated to show the identity of both sender and receiver. The most recent LOVE given and received, e.g.; top 50, are visible at a given moment. There have been more interations recently.

So as a tool this is nothing special. But as an employee recognition, reward, incentivization scheme, bonus process or way or working it s unique and potentially transformational. So what is the purpose of this venture? Has PR figured it out?

Well, PG will help him and Ryan out - they are only 2 guys after all. PG thinks this tool could comprise the economic engine for an internal virtual world for an enterprise or organization where points (LOVE) are the in-world currency (think points rewards for performing employees ... whatever you want to call them) and are accumulated based on the amount of positive feedback (LOVE or thanks) given and received. This would create a true transparent level-playing field merit based economy where the first employee "millionaires" are those most helpful and engaging and in turn those most admired and respected by their colleagues. And so an organization knows a) who is useful, productive, respected and valuable and b) thus who to promote - rather than the good looking wankers who show up at meetings and say nothing.

So not only has PR birthed his new Love Child, this could also be a decent business venture. As PR said in an interview; "We think the Love Machine is one of the most interesting cultural things that we've done, and I know that many other companies are going to adopt it. I eagerly tell people about it whenever I can. The Love Machine is built around the idea of generating a token of appreciation for any other person in the company. It is a horizontal, decentralized way for employees to give each other mini peer reviews, which in turn they can use when they go to do their own quarterly performance reviews. So, anyone in Linden Lab can send a little 80-character piece of email that says, for example, "Thanks for a great job this week," which makes both the receiver and the sender feel good. If the right people are thanking you for your help, you know you're doing the right things. It's a fun system to use, and it gives us a way of rewarding and encouraging collaborative behavior, which is important as you move toward a decentralized, distributed model where there's a risk that people will become really competitive with each other. Linden Love is something that counters that tendency by providing a positive motive for everything. It's an important part of the way we work. We also pay a small bonus for each piece of Love, so everyone gets a little envelope every quarter. It's not enough to really modify behavior, but it's enough to buy your friends a round of drinks!"

Sounds crazy? Yes. But does it work and have potential - absolutely!

Good luck dudes.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Playfish Still In Play


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/23/AR2009102302200.html
Last week we reported the rumors that VC-backed Playfish, the social games startup which has had phenomenal growth, was in the process of being acquired by games giant Electronic Arts for $250 million. However, nothing was confirmed at the time, and despite several press reports to that effect none of the companies involved has made a sound. And most observers were startled as Playfish had not looked like it wanted an early exit by any stretch. In fact, we've learned that Playfish is still in play, and in all likelihood EA leaked the $250 million figure as a negotiating tactic. Our sources say that Playfish is holding out for another offer, somewhere between $350m at the low end and $500m at the top end, either from EA or another suitor. Independently, Inside Social Games has uncovered similar chatter.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Zynga Buys GoPets


GoPets, a site that engages users by having them "raise" customizable 3D pets downloaded onto their desktop, was sold to social games developer Zynga, according to a Facebook post by GoPets founder Erick Bethke. Says Bethke on the post: "we have sold our company into Zynga!" Bethke is now working for Zynga in its San Francisco headquarters.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Top MMO's Since WOW

http://www.mmorpg.com/showFeature.cfm?page=1&feature=3615&bhcp=1

Russian Billionaire Blows $52,000 on Lunch!!!!!!


Most people don't make $52,000 in a year -- but Friday afternoon one Russian billionaire dropped that much cash on LUNCH!!!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Runescape Payment Method Mix


Offers a good model ... http://www.runescape.com/kbase/guid/billing

Listing The Best European Virtual Worlds

What are the best virtual worlds from Europe? Any thoughts Dear Readers?

Obopay Offers Game Payments


They will kick ass in this huge space.... From http://venturebeat.com/2009/10/28/obopay-moves-into-mobile-payments-for-online-games/#at
Obopay, a mobile payment company funded by Nokia, is announcing today that it is moving into online games so that you can buy items in social network games using your mobile phone. Obopay is one of a number of startups that make it easy to pay for services with a mobile phone. Users can mobilize their credit or debit cards by linking them to a mobile phone number. They can then pay for services by giving their phone number and typing in a PIN code for security. Online merchants like it because it eliminates friction in payments. So far, Obopay has focused on payments between people who have cell phones. It is also powering the new Nokia Money service which you can use to buy cell phone minutes, pay bills, or buy goods and services. Now, with today’s announcement, the company is adding payment for games on social networks such as Facebook. Obopay says there are lots of synergies between powering Nokia Money and handling mobile payments for games. Although it is late to the games market, Obopay has a lot going for it. The company was founded in 2005. Its partners include Nokia, AT&T, Verizon Wireless and MasterCard. Today’s announcement extends Obopay payment system to let people use their phone numbers to make purchases inside games using a credit or debit card attached to the mobile number. The user enters the mobile phone number and their PIN number, without having to leave the game itself. On Facebook, for instance, the user doesn’t have to be redirected to another web site to make the payment. Normally, lots of transactions are abandoned if a user has to leave a web site. With easier ways to pay, users will stay inside games longer, and that means better monetization for merchants. Obopay says that it has an advantage over rivals because the merchants also don’t have to give up a large percentage of their revenue to carriers who fulfill mobile payments via cell phone bills. The new Obopay system is already in use at game companies, which are yet to be announced. Obopay has about 200 employees. Rivals include PayPal Mobile, Zong, Boku, MPesa, and others. Besides Nokia, investors include AllianceBernstein, Essar Telecom USA Limited, ONSET Ventures, Qualcomm, Redpoint Ventures, Richmond Management, and Wolfensohn & Co. In March, Nokia said it put $70 million into Obopay.

Surfpin Looks OK


Check them out if you want a telco payment partner; "Surfpin is a secure payment method which enables customers without credit cards to purchase digital content and services quickly, safely and securely via their telephone. The Surfpin payment method is currently available to more than two billion people across 30 countries and in 15 different currencies, driving global e-commerce. Surfpin can only be used to pay for and access content suitable for all ages and protects the customer's identity. No personal information is required to make a payment, giving greater peace of mind for parents of younger users. Businesses and consumers can find more information about Surfpin at http://www.surfpin.com

Will Wright Hints at His Upcoming Interactive Toy Gig

Maybe he took a hint from PG on the interactive toy opp?; http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2009/10/will-wright-toys-stupid-fun-club.html

"Will Wright is still messing around. The 49-year-old creator of The Sims, Sim City and Spore quit Electronic Arts in April, but he continues to "build things that people would want to play with." Wright is still cagey about what he has up his sleeve, but he's given us a few clues.

Hint #1: It's a toy. Wright will be taking his concept to the New York Toy Fair in February, where he will deliver a talk titled "The Evolution of Entertainment: A Toy's Place" at the Engage! Expo, a conference on the convergence of toys, the Internet, virtual worlds, games and social media.

Hint #2: It will involve games. How could it not? Wright's games have sold more than 100 million copies and generated more than $1 billion in sales for EA, which has invested in Wright's company, the strangely named Stupid Fun Club.

Hint #3: It will have robotic components. "To some degree," he qualifies. "All of our projects have crossover elements. Even calling it a toy makes it too specific." Wright's fascination with robots dates back to when he was a child building model tanks and attaching motors to them.

Hint #4: It will be connected to the Internet. Many toys have developed online components. Ganz's Webkinz, for example, is both an online virtual world and a line of plush toys. Hasbro has collaborated with Electronic Arts to create a virtual world based on the toy company's Littlest Pet Shop line of stuffed animals.

Hint #5: It will rely on crowdsourcing. No surprises there, since The Sims spawned hundreds of thousands of fan-created YouTube videos. Wright cites a toy called 20Q that asks players to think of an object, then proceeds to guess what that object is after asking 20 questions. The program that generates the answers came from a database of questions and answers generated by millions of visitors to a website of the same name.

Still don't get it? Neither do we. But we're still intrigued. Hopefully, Wright will have more to say at The Engage conference at Toy Fair.

-- Alex Pham

Cellufun Globalizes Virtual Currency


Cellufun FunCoins virtual currency are now available for purchase by users in 25 different countries worldwide via mobile billed to the user's monthly mobile billing statement. Current FunCoins one-click purchase coverage includes North America, most of the European Union, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey. The next territories to receive the rollout will be China and South America.http://www.mobilemarketingwatch.com/cellufuns-mobile-virtual-goods-now-for-sale-4302/

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sarf Studios Website 100%


Planet Sarf is looking good http://www.sarfstudios.com/

Click&Buy Changes its T&C


PG got the following email from Clickandbuy;

"Improving our Terms & Conditions

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We would like to inform you that we have updated our terms & conditions in order to improve clarity and comply with forthcoming regulations relating to payment services.
The new Terms & Conditions will be valid from 31. October 2009 onwards and can be reviewed under the following link: www.clickandbuy.com

In order to answer this email and/or contact the Service Team, please click here. You will be redirected automatically to our contact form.
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