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  links for 2007-07-20  
Posted 2007-07-20 by Tony Walsh
  Electric Sheep Company to Launch New ‘Second Life’ Shopping Site  
Posted 2007-07-19 by Tony Walsh
The Electric Sheep Company plans to launch a new third-party Second Life shopping web site to replace, which acquired and relaunched last year. Merchants who have existing shops on SLBoutique will be migrated over to the new service, "Shop OnRez," next Monday, July 23, with the new shopping site set to go live on July 24.

According to the Sheep, "Shop OnRez will be the first service of OnRez, our consumer software brand, and there will more to follow." More of what, I wonder? In the short term, Shop OnRez merchants are promised a better, more dependable, and more usable e-commerce site, with selling capabilities extended deeper into Second Life. I sell a few items through SLBoutique (under avatar MiraWhirl Mainline) and look forward to checking out the new digs. Hopefully the transition will be seamless--some vendors sell dozens (if not tens of dozens) of items, so having to tweak individual goods for the new service could be a major pain.
  links for 2007-07-19  
Posted 2007-07-19 by Tony Walsh
  ‘MTV True Life’ Seeks Virtual World Fanatics  
Posted 2007-07-18 by Tony Walsh
MTV's True Life hopes to document your adventures in avatarism. A representative of the show's production team asked me to pass on a call-out in the hopes of enticing eligible candidates out of the woodwork:
Does your virtual avatar make you feel confident behind your computer screen? Is there something interesting or unique about your life online? Are you able to lead hundreds of people in games like World of Warcraft but find yourself shy in real life? Did you meet your significant other online? Is your online avatar completely different from who you are in real life? If so, we would love to hear your story.
If you appear to be between the ages of 16 and 28, and live another life on the web, email us at: or with your story. Please include your name, age, location, and pictures of you and a description of your avatar.
Yup, another virtual-world documentary [1,2,3,4] is underway. I think I've spoken to about six producers from virtual-world-related docs for both film and TV in the last 12 months. I don't mean to criticize any of these projects, but I'm concerned that audiences will get burned out on the subject matter by the time two or three of these documentaries are released, which could be bad news for those which aren't first to market.
  Zombies Infect Facebook  
Posted 2007-07-13 by Tony Walsh
Zombies Infect Facebook
Armies of bloodthirsty zombies are infecting Facebook. The Zombies Facebook game, made possible because the platform was recently opened to outside developers, has become Facebook's most popular, with over 1.3M users infected at the time of this writing. I've been following the Zombies invasion for just over a week, finding that its user-base has grown at a steady rate of around 65,000 users daily, or about 45 users per minute. I'm a bit surprised the population hasn't increased exponentially, but then I'm a lousy number-cruncher and statistician.

Zombies is, by design, a viral game. One's first introduction to it is usually through a "Zombies Invitation" sent from a friend, so there is social pressure to participate right from the outset. Invitations may be ignored, or one can "Start Biting Chumps!" with a few mouse-clicks. The objective is to build up zombie points and zombie status by biting friends, but I personally won't try it out, so don't bother biting me. From what I gather, it's possible to establish an entire zombie army. Zombies has been so successful that its creators have added a Vampires game along similar lines. About 300,000 users have been vampirized.

Continue reading: Zombies Infect Facebook
  ‘Neopets’ Users Rebel Over Economic Changes  
Posted 2007-07-12 by Tony Walsh
Thanks to reader Glitch for notifying me of a Neopets rebellion in progress. Neopet users 'spazzmic_doom' and 'eshikki' are calling for a protest against an upswing in commercialism in the browser-based virtual world. The main complaint is against the newly-launched NC Mall, which in spazzmic_doom's words "greedily asks users to pay REAL money in exchange for Neocash, a fake currency use to buy fake VIRTUAL clothing items for their pets." Based on what I'm reading on these users' web pages, it seems the situation isn't actually that users are forced to pay, but that the best items have been put up for sale through real money trading rather than through Neopoints, the traditional Neopets currency which is earned rather than purchased.

User spazzmic_doom complains that with the advent of the NC Mall, cash-strapped users are at a disadvantage. Spazzmic_doom hopes that complainants will call the Neopets hotlines to voice their displeasure, change their avatar names to "Bleh!," bombard "many areas of the site with their hate," get word out to the media, and displease the Neopets staff. User eshikki recommends blocking the NC Mall from one's browser, peppering one's personal Neopets pages with messages of protest, and gaming the social bookmarking site Digg to get the word out.

As far as I can tell, a small percentage of Neopets users are up in arms over features that seemingly weren't discussed with the community. With a vast user-base, I can see why Viacom (owner of Neopets) wouldn't bother to consult before monetizing the platform. Even if a few percent drop out, there are still 45M registered accounts around the world.
  links for 2007-07-12  
Posted 2007-07-12 by Tony Walsh
  links for 2007-07-11  
Posted 2007-07-11 by Tony Walsh
  Do 1 in 4 Internet Users Visit Game Sites?  
Posted 2007-07-10 by Tony Walsh
comScore released the results of a global study today showing that 28% of "the total worldwide online population" visited game web sites in May, 2007 (according to comScore, that's roughly 217M out of 705M total users). The study looked at sites providing online or downloadable games, excluding gambling sites, traffic from public computers (such as those in internet cafes), mobile phones, and PDAs. Matt Mihaly of The Forge notes that people who play online games through client software (rather than a web browser) are also excluded, and Steven Davis of PlayNoEvil explains why he thinks comScore's numbers are bogus.

From the sites studied, comScore distilled a top 10 list, finding Yahoo! Games in first place with about 53M unique visitors. The WildTangent Network trailed at number 10, with about 12M uniques (up almost 400% over May, 2006). WildTangent was found to attract 12.2 visits per user monthly, more than the average of 9 visits per user monthly. An interesting inclusion in the list was the fourth-ranked EA Online, which is a support site for EA's online games, and not a destination for playing online games. The full list is reprinted below...

Continue reading: Do 1 in 4 Internet Users Visit Game Sites?
  ‘Second Skin’ Documentarians Explore Chinese Gold Farm  
Posted 2007-07-10 by Tony Walsh
Victor Piñeiro, writer/producer of Second Skin, a documentary about virtual worlds, wrote to tell me he'll be spending July 13-21 exploring a gold farm in China, run by a Chinese-American 20-something. Victor says he'll be blogging about it as often as possible, so I'll be keeping an eye peeled for interesting developments.

Gold farms are modern sweatshops which owe their existence to the popularity of online games such as World of Warcraft. People who hire out gold farmers are essentially outsourcing their game-play, paying relatively little real money to buy in-game money in order to speed up the progression of their fictional characters. Most game makers forbid this sort of thing, but it's impossible to get rid of. There's an entire documentary on gold farmers due out this year, not to be confused with Second Skin.

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