Friday, December 25, 2009

Sulake CTO Gets Testy

Check the exchange generated by;

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? :)
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.

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.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Women Tire of Credit Cards

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.

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, 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.

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."

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.

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;