Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The Wall Street Journal today is reporting that Nokia Growth Partners, with $350 million under management, is actively looking to invest in virtual worlds. Reporting from the VentureWire Technology Showcase in Redwood City, Calif., today, the news service writes that Mary McDowell, executive vice president and chief development officer at Nokia, said the fund is "particularly interested in investing in start-ups innovating in payments and transactions, analytics and advertising, and gaming and virtual worlds." http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/2009/10/13/nokia-development-chief-weighs-in-on-start-ups-global-markets/
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
PG was contacted by the good folks at BigDoor Media which started in March of this year and closed their Series A round of financing in July. They have been in private beta now for the last two months and have seen really solid results testing their offer platform on 20 different publisher sites and within two iPhone applications. They are now opening their beta and according to their CEO Keith smith; "are excited to continue learning and iterating as we move further down the path of building a platform that gives online publishers better monetization tools." Check out their new site: http://www.bigdoor.com/ blog: http://www.bigdoor.com/category/blog/ and press release: http://www.bigdoor.com/press-releases/oct-14-2009/
Contact Keith Co-Founder & CEO if you want in on the beta:
More on Smith here http://www.techflash.com/seattle/2009/09/zango_founder_emerges_at_the_helm_of_new_startup_bigdoor_media.html
Monday, October 12, 2009
Open Network Entertainment (ONE) http://opennetworkent.com/about.html has released its ONE Power-Up Game Card with InComm. The card will support online games, social games, and virtual worlds in a way that allows users to redeem only part of the card's value at any particular destination app. Cards are currently available at Rite-Aid Pharmacy across America. http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20091012005223&newsLang=en
This is a JV between American and Korean payment companies with Incomm doing the distribution. The concept is excellent and has some very cool features; players can learn about and preview new games, engage in micro-transactions, pay monthly subscriptions, reload their ONE Power Pay Account. This eliminates keeping track of balances on multiple cards. Some features include:
1. Multiple online destinations; redeem full or partial card balances – The ONE universal card is accepted across multiple properties from games to virtual worlds in which consumers can complete secure transactions across multiple properties in a secure setting. Users must register at www.ONEgamecard.com to support partial redemptions.
2. Value-add promotional items – ONE power-ups the player’s experience by providing added value, from extra points to unique in-game bonus items, when they use the card.
3. Parental power – The ONE Power-Up Game Card empowers parents to control when and where their children spend online. ONE also plans on launching an age/rating specific card that uses the ESRB standards to create a payment experience that operates only on games appropriate to the user’s age.
4. Player education – Consumers can quickly and easily learn about and preview new games, access individual game summaries that provide interesting and useful information, strategies, characters and virtual goods.
5. Easy-to-use interface – Consumers simply purchase the card, visit www.ONE gamecard.com to register with the ONE Power Pay Service and set up their Power Code, allowing them to securely redeem balances from their account, whenever and wherever they want.
6. Flexibility – The ONE Power-Up Game Card platform will support redemptions at participating game, virtual world and social network sites as well as ONEgamecard.com.
Very cool. Now to be successful they need vw publishers and mmo's to sign up...
to pay the IRS. After long and careful consideration and professional advisement, PG reported to the IRS; "Thursday is the deadline for Americans to come clean about the money they have hidden offshore, in places like Swiss bank accounts. No one can say with certainty how much money is out there — the accounts are secret — but the hoard may be tens of billions of dollars. Several thousand wealthy people have come forward, hoping to avoid large fines or possibly even prison. But many others are still weighing their options. The choice is stark: They can confess and pay the penalties, or gamble that they will not get caught. With the deadline only days away, tax lawyers say they are being inundated by anxious clients. “We’re seeing a flood of people,” said Scott D. Michel, a tax lawyer in Washington. His firm, Caplin & Drysdale, has 350 clients who are preparing to report their offshore accounts to the Internal Revenue Service. The firm has 14 lawyers handling their cases, one of which involves a tax bill of hundreds of millions of dollars. The deadline is part of a broad crackdown on Americans who use offshore accounts to evade federal taxes. As part of the effort, United States authorities have challenged the long tradition of banking secrecy in Switzerland, and, in particular at UBS, that nation’s largest bank. The I.R.S. is offering tax dodgers some leniency. Penalties will be reduced for people who come forward by Oct. 15. They will be assessed fines equal to 5 to 20 percent of their tax bills, rather than the usual 50 percent. They also will pay that penalty once, based on the highest balance in their offshore accounts over the last six years, rather than for each of those six years. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/business/13irs.html?hp
So you want to launch a virtual world? Or maybe relaunch your existing world? If either, how do you make this virtual world stand out from the crowd? Here are some themes and ideas you may consider;
1. Eco - very niche and currently not (that over-) explored. Why not start with 1 eco-system (e.g.; Rainforest, Jungle) and branch into others, desert, forest, ocean, arctic, resulting in 5 virtual world themes (on the same platform) for variety and brand differentiation? Check out Jumpstart's recently launched MarineLand http://www.jumpstart.com/
2. Education - you can differentiate with eduction and make this world one of the defacto educational offerings for young kids, teens, families, adults and acceptable even in school or college curriculums. Why not?
3. Platformization - you want to build a platform to publish, launch and develop all of your virtual world ideas so it scales. Disney Interactive Group has a portfolio of virtual worlds all on different technologies an platform. You want to harmonize development and distribution over one central infra to scale and deploy for competitive advantage and lean development and production. That said, your payment and merchandise distribution infra and marketing mediums will allow you to publish and springboard new worlds and online (offline) offerings rapidly and cost-effectively;
4. Convergence - you want to not just do a pure-play virtual world (old news) you want to tie in real life content (video, pics of kids and families on trips etc...) so there is a novel augmented virtual and real feel to the places and scenes which fosters more user created content. You want to allow users who take vids and pics and share their own content (safely, easily and anonymously ... with parental approval)
5. Economy & Philanthropy - why not use your virtual economy for philanthropy? Club Penguin has done some good things here
6. open source development - I would consider early on open sourcing some of the platform and develop a network of partners (like Linden Lab created with its developer ecosystem) so other developers, causes, organizations and even big media could use your technology to produce other virtual worlds. Imagine being the defacto standard platform for kiddie/eco/enviro/ virtual worlds while also having your "premium platform" publishing your proprietary portfolio of branded worlds?
7. Mobile - you need your virtual world portfolio to address the mobile angle and how you will allow NOKIA/SAMSUNG/APPLE etc... a mobile entry vector to the world(s).
8. Family - when it comes to kids you want this for family activity so it is mom and dad approved.
9. Global - you want an internationalization plan and country rollout checklist so this is a truly global offering and has innovative language localization and communication features so e.g. kids in Sweden can talk to kids in Spain and German kids to Canadian kids in native languages (think simple BABEL Fish-like Apps)
Just a few thoughts on innovation/differentiation in the crowded virtual world space.
Even MacDonald's is doin' it!;) http://paymentguy.blogspot.com/2009/10/you-know-this-space-is-crowded-when.html
As the new Chairman HABBO, will Mika Salmi rescue Sulake? Did he rescue MTV Networks? http://www.dmwmedia.com/news/2006/11/01/mika-salmi-to-the-rescue-at-mtv-as-new-president-global-digital-media According to sources a "standup guy" who is no doubt a business wizz http://newteevee.com/2009/03/05/mika-salmi-leaving-mtv-networks/, Salmi with Sulake will have his work cut out for him. But being so "anti-establishment" at heart http://www.businessweek.com/2000/00_20/b3681085.htm, he may be more BOBBA than HABBO. Is that a good thing http://paymentguy.blogspot.com/2009/10/kill-bobba-now.html?
With a mere 35,150 created accounts since launch http://www.bobba.com/ despite 140,000,000 HABBO's, BOBBA has already tanked. Sulake should cut its losses and kill BOBBA now. What it should do is sell or license the platform to mobile device manufacturers and application providers. PG PS: The BOBBA avatars are simply way way too UGLY! Here is more info on the new Head HABBO or is it Head BOBBA? http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2009/08/sulake-babbo-confirmed-for-september.html and http://www.crunchbase.com/person/mika-salmi
This is the 1st kiddie virtual world PG has seen that is kinda mixed reality with the inserted video content http://www.binweevils.com/ Very cool! But their SHOP is closed so not sure if they are making any money http://www.binweevils.com/shop/index.html
PG likes this professional sports themed concept kiddie virtual world Action AllStars http://www.actionallstars.com/reg/membership.jsp But if the point is to drive kids nd famillies to watch and even attend major league sports games, why can't I use my Red Sox Season's pass or redeemed Laker's ticket as a way to get a membership? So if PG and family go to a ball game or we have seasons tickets, why can't we use our proof of pass or even the tickets we used to go to 1 game (normally $50 usd for cheap seats anywhere) as payment for Action AllStars?
Get it MLB.COM? Here is a review of the site http://www.commonsensemedia.org/website-reviews/action-allstars
Disney is creating up to 10 different virtual worlds at a cost ranging between $5 and $10 million a piece according to the New York Times. The article is an otherwise solid round up of existing children's worlds and plans, including Nickelodeon's plans to invest $100 million to create virtual worlds and casual games. In a recent keynote, Disney's Bob Iger pointed out that the upcoming Cars virtual world would cost millions, not hundreds of millions to develop, because it is built on an existing infrastructure. That builds on Disney's plans to work with children's changing habits to keep the company's virtual worlds from becoming a fad. “Are features like creating an avatar a long-term advantage for anyone? Probably not,” Paul Yanover told the Times. “The viability and sustainability of this business comes from the shifting behavior of kids and how they spend their leisure time.” [via New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/business/31virtual.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=068e5e1dad982be3&ei=5087%0A
Cityracers Vector Entertainment just launched its online car racing world Vector City Racers (VCR). In beta for almost a year, and with launch delayed by litigation from Ganz Interactive (Webkinz World) http://paymentguy.blogspot.com/2009/02/webkinz-sues-webcars.html there are now 290,000 player registrations and typically draws 15,000 daily unique visitors http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2009/10/vector-city-racers-launches.html. PG LOVES their subscription pricing model of 4 membership plans, especially the Family Monthly and Annual: Monthly ($4.95), Annual ($49.95), Family Monthly: ($9.95), and Family Annual ($99.00). Very smart! But their payment pages need a lot of work http://www.vectorcityracers.com/pages/parent/ParentsPricingMembershipPage
They also have a Facebook App that is pretty cool. Check this other review; http://www.familygameronline.com/2009/10/vector-city-racers-now-available-new.html
If I were these guys, I would try and do a deal with NASCAR or F1 even so every family / kid that shows proof of a NASCAR ticket gets a free membership.
The concept can be copied to other virtual worlds with advertising or co-marketing deals where a kid shows proof of purchase of a real life item (ie a receipt) and then uses this as a way to gain a membership, credits or other virual good from the participating virtual world publisher (eg stardoll users show H&M merchandise purchases as a way to get virtual items or memberships ...).
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Same applies with Virtual Worlds; "Convince someone to take a subscription, and the revenue flows in for months to come. “It is amazing how inertia takes over,” says Peter S. Fader, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Anyone who has signed up for a gym membership that is paid for but not used understands the genius behind subscriptions." http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/11/business/11every.html?hpw