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  ‘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.

  ‘Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames’ Released  
Posted 2007-07-09 by Tony Walsh
Ian Bogost's latest book, Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames, looks at how video games make arguments, offering a theory of rhetoric for games, and covering a wide range of example games with an eye towards politics, advertising and learning. It's now available through Amazon and MIT Press.

Bogost is an assistant professor at Georgia Tech, and founding partner of Persuasive Games, a firm which recently entered into a publishing relationship with the New York Times, creating newsgames for the paper's online op-ed page. I'm particularly looking forward to Persuasive Games (the book), as one of the colleges where I teach part-time will make persuasive games one of its main areas of investigation this fall, and because most of the games I've worked on over the years have had an educational or marketing agenda.
  links for 2007-07-09  
Posted 2007-07-09 by Tony Walsh
  The Games of Facebook  
Posted 2007-06-28 by Tony Walsh
Aside from the obvious "Facebook as a collecting game," the crazy-popular social networking service does provide other avenues for play, made possible by opening itself up as a development platform last month. There are already over 140 game applications available at the time of this writing, ranging from various implementations of folk-game 'Rock, Paper, Scissors,' to Facebook-specific games such as Poke Wars.

As I see it, the advantage to developing a Facebook game is the ability to reach players easily by word of mouth, particularly if the game contains social or viral hooks. The most popular game at this time is (fluff)Friends (more of a virtual pet application than game), which has reached over 656,000 users, followed by branded RoShamBo game Red Bull Roshambull with over 287k users, and a multi-player games network with over 280k users. Moderately-popular games have several thousands of players while the least popular games have a few dozen players or less.

Based on what I'm seeing in the list of games, it can't be too hard to port previously-created material into Facebook (although I'd be interested to know exactly how much effort it takes to slap a Flash game into a Facebook app), and also possible to run one's own monetization systems (such as Google AdSense). Seems like fertile territory for development--might be worth checking the game landscape again in a month or two.
  Third Party MMO Sites Cash Out  
Posted 2007-06-23 by Tony Walsh
, a third-party site for players of World of Warcraft, has been sold for a reported sum of over $1 million USD. Wowhead is one of several resources for Warcraft players, offering a thorough database cataloging all known items and non-player characters within the game. Tech Soapbox author Ahmed Farooq says Wowhead was an instant hit, being faster and sleeker than competing resources.

Elsewhere in the metaverse, third-party Second Life news site SL Reports has reportedly been sold for the equivalent of $10k USD in virtual currency. According to, "What started with a few friends reading it turned into a site with 7000 hits a week and over 15000 group members." Can't say I see the value here. As far as I can tell SL Reports is simply re-posting entire passages penned by outside journalists. And 7,000 weekly hits ain't all that--Clickable Culture gets about 200 times that. Not to mention "hits" is a terrible way to measure traffic. It's like the dot com bomb all over again...
  ‘EVE TV’ Launch Imminent  
Posted 2007-06-22 by Tony Walsh
EVE TV, a weekly web-exclusive video series revolving around sci-fi MMO EVE Online, launches June 23, 2007 at 11:00 GMT. The series brings together four conventionally-attractive presenters who are relatively new to the EVE universe, and one veteran gamer with previous editorial and broadcast experience, dosing viewers with both eye- and brain-candy.

While the series tagline is "play it, live it, watch it," it remains to be seen how many people will prefer to play and live EVE over watching EVE TV once weekly. CCP, maker of EVE, first broadcast live audio and video programs last July during a fan festival. The broadcast included a 95-match tournament, allowing viewers to see and hear all matches with commentary. I can see tournament footage being worthwhile viewing, I'm just not yet convinced a weekly broadcast about the EVE universe is going to be compelling enough--or interesting at all to outsiders. Guess I'll have to tune in on June 23!
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... Hope it helps someone... Dino...
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