Friday, February 13, 2009

PG's10 Favourite Countries

Well, I really like Vietnam too, especially D'alat beach life and I love Norwegian chicks and visiting the Oslo Fjord at my buddy Olav's cottage in midsummer, but these are PG's top 10 countries by blog readership:

United States (US) 1,307
United Kingdom (GB) 372
Germany (DE) 279
Canada (CA) 243
Finland (FI) 205
Netherlands (NL)147
Brazil (BR) 138
Italy (IT) 121
France (FR) 112
Poland (PL) 107

Shout out to Poland ... what a suprise #10!

Do Enterprise Virtual Worlds Suck?

Tell us what you really think Raph;

Second Life technology continues its slow move towards being an enterprise solution with the announcement that the SL-derived OpenSim project is getting commercialized by 3Di. Enterprise was a big buzzword this year at the Virtual Worlds conf in Hollywood. (Of course, in the midst of it, someone had to ask “what is enterprise anyway?” It means “selling VWs to businesses”). The penny has also dropped for some users that SL itself seems to be trending in this direction — as Tateru Nino writes on Massively,

When you look at the hiring of Tom Hale, the ongoing hiring of enterprise sales and marketing staff, and the licensing of the Immersive Workspaces product from Rivers Run Red, this all seems to signal a clear direction for where Linden Lab is taking Second Life. Clearer than anything else we’ve seen in a year, certainly.

Of course, we have also seen Forterra and their OLIVE platform (derived originally from the codebase) continue to focus on this area over several years, with particular success in work for the military. Is all this a surrender of the dream? What about user-creation virtual worlds for consumers? I’m not personally particularly excited about enterprise and it has never been something I have paid attention to. But rather than me ranting about it, I went and asked Jason Hable, our VP of Business Operations (and former VC) why enterprise isn’t necessarily an appealing direction. His answers:

Sales cycles are notoriously long because of:
- Testing, trialing and approval levels
- Unproven return on investment
- New tech can wallow within the “labs” groups on discretionary budgets for years before being rolled out to business units (if ever)
- Rank and file aversion to new technologies (especially without prior consumer touchstones

The business model isn’t as attractive as consumer due to:
- Slow, linear growth
- Lower margins due to customization and service requirements
- Lower exit multiples due to lower margins and slower growth
And also noteworthy today,
- Drop of enterprise spending on new technology during recessions

He ended with a note saying that enterprise isn’t necessarily a bad business — just less attractive, and there’s a learning curve that many of the VW crowd have not had to climb yet and underappreciate.

My take?

* It takes a long time to sell to enterprises. Lots of folks need to approve a purchase, if there’s any significant cost to it.
* There is no clear ROI for the enterprise. Meaning, how does the company prove that they are making more money thanks to this purchase and service contract? This matters more the more expensive the product is. If it’s in reduced travel costs, then it’s in direct competition with stuff like Webex.
* Slow adoption — a new tech group within the company may adopt it, but enterprises are slow to adopt as a whole. Just think about how hard it has been to get companies to change which version of MS Office they use, for example.
* The business model — it’s licensing and and service contracts, so it is only as scalable as the number of enterprises, and the margins aren’t great.
* It’s a communication technology, and those rely on everyone being on them. Sure, there’s a business in enterprise phone systems — but in the end, everyone wants to be on the real phone system.

In the end, for me the answer comes down to the fact that over the longer haul, the consumer tail wags the enterprise dog in some ways. No companies want Gmail, and in fact many ban it, but everyone uses it anyway for the convenience and because it’s where their non-work lives reside. If there’s a common consumer standard out there, enterprise is often obliged to adapt to it, rather than the other way around. Granted, given the slow pace at which enterprises move, it can take a long time, and there’s money to be made in the interim… so sure, enterprise is a viable strategy.
Right now, there is no common consumer standard at all — in fact, I have made the case before that it is actually premature for the market to move towards interoperability standards; we’re in the midst of a ferment of invention that could be short-circuited by overly aggressive convergence on a standard. But when it does happen, I am pretty sure that it’ll be arising from the consumer space and not the enterprise space. Enterprise solutions are driven by opposite needs:

* Walled gardens.
* High levels of privacy and security.
* Heavily customizable software that can be tailored to specific and generally non-replicable solutions.

So why the move away from consumers? Well, because monetization has been demonstrated quite effectively in entertainment worlds, but not to the same degree in “social” virtual worlds. Lots of eyeballs hitting, but not necessarily paying — or perhaps not paying enough to equal the sort of burn or investment that the worlds have seen. This was part of the reason, I suspect, that split in two and originally ditched the consumer service — and of course, today Makena (the other half that stuck with the consumer service) spends a lot of their time on… middleware. But in the end, consumers are where the scalable revenue lies. It is arguable whether even something like World of Warcraft is truly “mass market” yet — it’s got enough North American users to be in the same ballpark as something like Gossip Girl, but Gossip Girl is itself a heavily targeted niche show — just a very lucrative niche. So we’re simply not yet at the place where the mass market consumer is jumping on even the entertainment worlds. But we’re getting there at a rapid clip. And the possibilities are exciting and unpredictable, whereas to me, anyway, enterprise is kinda boring. :)

So, no, the dream isn’t dead. Consumer virtual worlds are still coming on strong, despite the focus on enterprise lately. It may be that part of the reason why these slightly older worlds and platforms are having to shift is that they are simply the wrong design for the consumer space, and the future belongs to stuff that looks more like Lively, Whirled, SmallWorlds, Vivaty, and yes, Metaplace. I sure hope so, because the very different architecture choices made there can grow back to the big immersive experiences, but I am unsure that the big architectures can shrink down to the smaller needs of the ordinary person.

Did you know Runescape is now serious business?

PG had heard about this but never got around to blogging about it; Maker of RuneScape Hires CEO of PayPal Europe

Jagex announced it has hired the former CEO of PayPal Europe Ltd. Geoff Iddison has extensive experience in leading international ecommerce-based businesses and replaces Constant Tedder, who will remain on the board of Directors. Iddison held the position of CEO of eBay-owned payments business PayPal Europe Ltd from August 2003, having originally led the first expansion of PayPal from its base in California. Geoff had joined eBay in 2000 from Christies Inc. where he held the role of COO.
Iddison said, "I am very excited about joining Jagex. The company has built an amazing international playing community through the RuneScape game. The technology used to distribute the game and the incredible depth offered to anyone playing RuneScape makes Jagex a very different gaming company." RuneScape has over 6 million regular players worldwide. The browser-based game has attracted popularity across the globe with strong subscriber communities in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Scandinavia. In addition, Jagex recently launched a new German-language of RuneScape, "packed with the same number of features that have made the English-language version so widely popular."

Best Virtual World CEO's

#1. Lane Merrifield - Disney Interactive Group / Club Penguin

#2. Howard Ganz - Ganz Interactive / Webkinz

#3. Geoff Iddison - Jagex / Runescape

#4. Jean-Bernard Levy Vivendi / World of Warcraft

#5. Ghislaine Le Rhun Gautier Goa Games

Maybe Old News Is Bad News For Apaja's Playray

PG always checks vw, mmo and social networking sites news categories. If its current, that's a good thing. If its dated, perhaps the property is tanking? Look at the latest news release from Apaja Online Entertainment about Playray for example. It is dated from July 08, 7 months ago Are they just lazy with PR? Do they have nothing good to report? Is this a sign the property is about to expire? Stay tuned... Dear readers, keep your news current!

PG PS These guys and gals at Apaja and Playray used to be hot. Well, at least their Former CEO was. Let's see if this online Goddess and new mom can bring this promising and innovative property back to life when she gets back behind the CEO desk.

What's Happenning in Finland

Good cosmetic look at the Finnish game scene including promising Xiha Life; "another virtual community that is gaining popularity step by step is XIHA Life; co-founded by Jani Penttinen, former game developer for the American giant Electronic Arts, together with his Chinese wife. XIHA offers the chance to meet people from all over the world and much more; users can upload unlimited amount of pictures, discover new music, and of course games are an important part of the fun; as Jani explains: “In fact the idea came mostly from my wife, Wen. The biggest reason for starting XIHA Life was the fact that we had a multilingual circle of friends where people were speaking Chinese, English and even Finnish, but not everyone could communicate with each other. I worked in Las Vegas for Westwood Studios for a few years, until EA closed the studio. After that I still continued to work as a consultant for EA for many of their top projects, while working on my own casual games company, Jollygood Games. I have good connections to the casual games industry from those days, and for that reason games are indeed the main source of income for XIHA”.

Here come the WeboSaurs!

Very cool. Will have to get my kids to check this out ...

Counting Wizards

From Wizard 101 teaches wizards how to count up to 1 million players

by Colin Brennan Feb 13th 2009 at 5:00PM

Filed under: Fantasy, MMO industry, News items, Free-to-play, Wizard101

What's the new MMO contender in the room with 1 million accounts? Is it Warhammer Online? Nope. Is it Lord of the Rings Online? Not at all. Would you believe that it's Wizard 101?

Well you should, because it is! Wizard 101 is celebrating over 1 million accounts, and giving all players, old and new, 101 free crowns to use in their cash shop. While 101 isn't very much, the development team has also added some new pets and items to the store that cost less than 101 crowns specifically for this purpose -- including the limited edition Storm Beetle pet.

The 1 millionth player who signed up on February 13th has gotten a very special prize package. The development team has added a brand new statue in Wizard City Commons with an interactive plaque featuring the character's name. That player has also gotten a free one year subscription to the game; not a bad deal at all!

[via Mystic Worlds]

Linden Lab Aquisition Reduces XL Street Payment Methods

No wires or cheques! From

Hi all,

Beginning March 1st, Xstreet will no longer accept check, money order, or wire transfer payments. Also we will no longer provide the option to cash-out by check. This is necessary to bring payments more in line with the existing policies for Second Life.

We'll continue to support incoming regular PayPal, credit card, and PayPal mass payments, as well as outgoing PayPal payments. Additionally, we don't expect any changes to how long it takes to process either incoming or outgoing payments.

Since Linden Lab's acquisition of Xstreet we've been working hard to build a road map for integration and make plans for the future. I'm happy to say that the basic planning is done and I'm really excited about what's in store.

You've already seen a few changes to the Xstreet service, and over the next few weeks and months you can expect the pace of change to increase. A lot of really great new features will be added and improvements made which will increase the value and appeal of our services even more. To get started, though, some fundamental changes such as this have to come first. Launched

Today Disney launched, its new 3D avatar and casual games community to go alongside a boys-centric channel also called Disney XD

Wanna make peanuts?

Then call these guys

But if you want to make $,£, EURO, YEN and other forms of cash, email PAYMENTGUY@GMAIL.COM.

Making EURO's - Springboard into Europe...

Want to do Europe? The EU has a lot to offer. Hot liberal minded chicks who drink beer and do not get fat because they ride bikes to work,

fascinating culture,

Belgian Waffles,

Eurorail, and most of all, EUROS which are worth much more than dollars!
Did PG mention the EU has hot chicks? Anyway, back to business... so PG was recently tipped to an uber-secret startup from Finland. No, it's not FRUUGO! This Finn startup is focusing on providing a turn-key platform consisting of the operational, customer support, server hosting and payment infrastructure pieces to allow ASIAN, North American and local EURO mmog's, virtual world publishers and social networking sites to launch, localize and start tapping into the lucrative EUROPEAN online market. Apparently, their platform and publishing network will operate across its 28 member states and other Euro countries like Norway and Switzerland. The start-up is launching this Monday 16.2 and PG will be doing a post on it. The only other venture of this type PG is aware of is France Telecomms very successful GOA Games, a part of the France Telecom Content Divison. Goa has been growing and thriving with 400 new jobs to be added in its Dublin base but still does not have pan-European infrastructure reach.

PG is informed this start-up will. So congrats and looking forward to hearing more. It's about time there was a 1-stop shop to localize and launch an online property throughout the EU. And pan-European customer support is something that should be in very hot demand as there is currently no company providing this service across the EU. So it seems to be a very cool and well-thought out venture. We will see about the execution. By the way, the picture above at the top is a hint hint to the name of the start-up comprised of people from such leading companies as Sulake, Disney Interactive, Linden Labs, Adminotechnologies, ClickandBuy, NOKIA and others. Stay tuned ... even PG is interested in this one.

PG PS Finland, home of this EU startup has many very hot blond chicks. So, in case you were wondering what Finland looks like in summer (after a few cold beers on the local city beach ;)

PayByCash Hits Another Home Run

Hot on the release of his Ultimate Game Card now in Canada and India, hard working Kevin Higgens and Team at PayByCash secures a smart partnership with London based UKash. This is a very good move for both payment companies. All of PG's dear readers should use both of these excellent offline / prepaid payment methods, now made easier by the partnership. Congrats!

From Finextra

PayByCash inks deal with Ukash

Ukash, the fastest growing online cash payment solution, has signed a deal with PayByCash allowing hundreds of online merchants to offer a safe, quick and easy cash payment method for online purchases.

US-based PayByCash, a subsidiary of PlaySpan, offers a portfolio of more than 70 payment methods worldwide - this now includes Ukash. The company helps merchants retain customers and maximise revenue by giving consumers the option to pay in other ways than with credit cards, meeting the market's growing demand for alternative payment methods. PayByCash is accepted by over 200 popular online games and virtual worlds. Customers who choose non-card payments are transferred from the merchant's site to a PayByCash hosted page where they select Ukash and simply enter the unique 19-digit number featured on their Ukash voucher to complete the transaction. When using PayByCash, the consumer is charged a small service fee for non-card payments.
Ukash's prepaid e-cash vouchers provide customers with peace of mind, eliminating the threat of fraud and allowing the customer to pay without the need to reveal sensitive financial details.

"We are really pleased to work with such an active global payment service as PayByCash" Mark Chirnside, CEO of Ukash, explains. "This agreement gives our customers in Europe the choice to use Ukash at a great range of merchants, including some of the most popular online games and communities." Kevin Higgins, from PayByCash, comments "We have seen Ukash's impressive growth in the last 12 months and have no doubt it will be quickly adopted as a payment option by our key audiences, specially the younger population. Likewise, we are also looking forward to introducing Ukash customers to our exciting offering." Ukash, which has experienced a 140% increase in sales in the last year, provides a simple and secure way for consumers to buy goods and services online with its prepaid vouchers, available at 275,000 locations across Europe and South Africa, via mobile in the UK and now also online in most territories.

ClickandBuy "The Salest Boosting Solution"

Get a load of this gobbledygook about ClickandBuy

ClickandBuy e-payment system offers salest boosting solution

ClickandBuy, an international full-service provider of e-payment and billing in the Netherlands and worldwide, one of the leading payment systems in the internet, will give online shops a considerable advantage, boosting their sales by up to 150 per cent. Study of ECC (E-Commerce-Center) confirms massive increases in sales for online retailers who use the ClickandBuy internet payment system. The result of the e-commerce study is based on a series of online experiments, involving more than 500 consumers carrying out just under 15,000 simulated purchases. Usually, an increase in sales of about 88 per cent can be reached on average in the case of online purchases exceeding an amount of 200 euros; in fact this can be reached by using secure payment systems. But in the case of using the ClickandBuy online payment system, the increase is about 150 per cent. For instance when there is a purchase of 50 euro, the increase for online retailers is on average 15 per cent in generally, but ClickandBuy can reach 28 per cent increase. There is an additional growth in customer confidence, which means enormous gains, since the public's anxiety about security cost money. New online shops in particular obtain advantages from cooperating with the market-tested ClickandBuy e-payment system: greater sales due to greater confidence. Quality of sales and the integration of payment systems such as ClickandBuy are able to reduce the rate of the customers’ losses."

Calling Stuart Ginsberg! Where are you? Please help us communicate our ecommerce message in plain old native speaker English.... Just kidding. Taking the piss on the C&B gang as usual. But to be fair to the folks at C&B, they probably had no input to this article. So PG is actually doing them a favor by alerting them to this gibberish.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wizard101's Player-Driven Payment Choices

Great op ed by Elie Akilian, Founder and CEO of KingsIsle Entertainment, on his company's decision to offer a variety of different pricing options for its virtual world, Wizard101 at Virtual World News

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't Forget About Fruugo ...

PG was delighted to get an email from the folks at Finnish startup Fruugo. Apparently, they are back in business, well they are in Beta at least. I wonder if they still suck;

Hi there,

A long, long time ago, at a desk far away (or maybe the one you're
sitting at now), you asked Fruugo for more information about what we're
doing. And then... there was nothing to hear but the low hiss of the
cosmic radio background.

We're sorry about that. We’ve been working day and night to get Fruugo
online and make it a really nice webshop where you'll find lots of
products from lots of retailers in lots of different countries. And it's
getting close! In the past couple weeks we’ve launched a beta version of
Fruugo and are gradually opening up to a few eager test users.

If you live in Finland and would like to be one of the first Fruugo
users, please go to and request an invitation.

Outside Finland? We'll be especially happy to welcome you to Fruugo,
too. It'll just take a little bit longer for us to finish all the
systems, but we're expanding to more countries real soon – Sweden is
next on the map, with other countries in Europe to follow.

Thanks for your interest and your patience. We look forward to shopping
with you!

All best,
The gang at Fruugo