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  SXSWi 2008 Notes:  Human and Property Rights in Virtual Worlds  
Posted 2008-03-09 by Tony Walsh
SXWi 2008 rough notes: "Human Rights and Property Rights in Virtual Worlds"

Susan Wu- If we don't address legal issues as publishers and developers, we will lose control [presumably through regulation]

Scenario: Your Tier 5 armor which took 6 months to acquire gets nerfed, do you have legal protection against devaluation?

Eric Bethke- No.

Boyd- Game world designers should have control over that decision [to nerf the armor, I think].

Scenario: You lose equipment following a server crash, do you have the right to have that property replaced?

Andrew Schneider- yes

Bethke- yes
Boyd- publishers can treat you however they want within the law. If I were running a game I would bend over backwards to give it back.

Schneider- This is all covered in EULAs, ToS, how rules are communicated to gamers

Continue reading: SXSWi 2008 Notes:  Human and Property Rights in Virtual Worlds
  ‘Habbo’ Heist Leads To Arrest  
Posted 2007-11-14 by Tony Walsh
The Beeb reports that a 17 year-old Dutch teen stands accused of stealing 4,000 euros worth of Habbo Hotel virtual furniture, with 5 other teens allegedly moving the stolen virtual goods into their own Habbo rooms. I can't help but laugh at these witless kids, who would apparently rather steal furniture than give out virtual hand-jobs. Everyone knows furni-whores get theirs for free.
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Posted 2007-09-24 by Tony Walsh
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Posted 2007-09-17 by Tony Walsh
  VW2007 Notes:  “ Virtual World Consumer Behaviors and The Evolution of Social Networking”  
Posted 2007-03-28 by Tony Walsh
I arrived slightly late for this afternoon panel, and couldn't find a place to set down my laptop, therefore I present a transcription of my chicken-scratched notes. Abridged. Caveat emptor. My occasional notes in [square brackets].

Teemu Huuhtanen, President, North America & EVP Business Development, Sulake Corp. Ltd.:

Habbo's audience is split 50/50 between male/female, average age is 15. Ease of use if the most important aspect of virtual worlds. Habbo is moderated 24/7 across 28 regional sites. There are 74M registered users, with 22M in North America. Habbo receives 7M unique visitors [monthly, I think], with 1.7M in North America.

Continue reading: VW2007 Notes:  “ Virtual World Consumer Behaviors and The Evolution of Social Networking”
  Peep-Show Potential in Sony’s ‘Home’  
Posted 2007-03-23 by Tony Walsh
Sony's upcoming 3D game lobby Home is packed with peep-show promise, allowing users to host private gatherings where media such as video may be shared. Private spaces are unmoderated, according to Sony big-shot Phil Harrison, who told semi-official Sony site Three Speech that "[P]eople can express their creativity inside Home in a wide variety of ways and it's not necessarily for us to dictate what that should be." Additionally, Harrison said that Sony hopes to offer user-to-user "transactional elements" in the future.

Where technology springs up, porn and profit naturally follows: With Home's video sharing and a transaction system, peep shows are an inevitability. You pay me in whatever filthy lucre lubricates Home's user-to-user transactions, I invite you to my screening room for a 30-minute porn clip. Since the session is private, nobody can complain--not even copyright-holders to the porn clips, who would never know whether or not infringements were taking place. Everybody wins!

This whole peep show thing isn't far-fetched when you consider users of Habbo Hotel whore themselves out for gifts of virtual furniture, or that Second Life escort services are a dime a dozen.
  ‘Virtual World Sustainability’ Still in Question  
Posted 2007-03-19 by Tony Walsh
Last December, I wondered aloud if Second Life was ecologically sustainable, given the large number of always-on servers powering the virtual world. At the time, user concurrency hovered around the 15,000 mark--these days it's more like 30,000, which makes my original question all the more relevant. With more and more computers (both server and client) being turned on to support the growth of places like Second Life, is the virtual world (and I mean any virtual world here) good for our environment?

Nick Carr got a lot more mileage out of the meme, finding that "an avatar consumes a bit less energy than a real person, though they're in the same ballpark." Carr's math picked up a lot of steam, even if its accuracy was debatable. Lots of blogs considered the question thanks to Carr's high-profile punditry--even William Gibson took notice.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear at a panel during this year's SXSW conference that the meme is still alive and kicking. Robin Hunicke carried it forward in a discussion about the 3D web, expressing concern at the consumption of resources related to virtual worlds, and adding that she travels more now because of games--not less. Speaking from personal experience, I've traveled by air more--not less--because of virtual worlds.

Continue reading: ‘Virtual World Sustainability’ Still in Question
  ‘The Lounge’ Gets $5M Injection  
Posted 2007-02-02 by Tony Walsh
Doppelganger, maker of the virtual teen hangout The Lounge, has reportedly raised another $5M after receiving $11M in earlier funding rounds. The Lounge began life as a Pussycat Dolls microworld, and has grown slowly since last year--there are roughly 3,450 signups to its web-based Community page at this time, but Doppleganger hasn't published any other usage statistics that I am aware of.

I'm surprised a virtual world with $16M behind it isn't more successful, even if it has no appeal to me personally. I don't see $11M-worth of product or service in The Lounge, so I'm curious as to why anyone would invest another $5M in Doppelganger. Perhaps the company has something new in the works that will compete against Teen Second Life, Habbo Hotel, Nicktropolis, There, Virtual Hills/Virtual Laguna Beach, Whyville, IMVU, and Areae.

Previously at Clickable Culture:
  ‘Nicktropolis’ Fails on Many Levels  
Posted 2007-02-01 by Tony Walsh
‘Nicktropolis’ Fails on Many Levels
The horror... the horror...
The popular Nickelodeon network has launched a beta version of Nicktropolis, a web-based virtual world for kids featuring brands such as Spongebob Squarepants and Danny Phantom. I took ten minutes to try it out today, and in short, it's bloody awful. Everything about the service is terrible, from its surface presentation, to the usability and navigation, to the account-management process, to the actual experience of "living" in the world.

The registration process is easy enough, but has no means to prevent adults from signing on as kids, or kids signing on as parents. Creating an avatar, or "NickSelf," was a painful process, involving extreme lag between clothing and hairstyle choices. The avatar design is primitive, with few customizable options, and low aesthetic appeal. The avatars aren't so much characters as much as walking cursors. Worse still, the avatar apparently must be re-created every time one visits Nicktropolis. At least that's how it was for me.

Continue reading: ‘Nicktropolis’ Fails on Many Levels
  Coming Soon: ‘Avatar-Based Marketing’ Panel at SXSW Screenburn  
Posted 2007-01-31 by Tony Walsh
On March 11, 2007 at the South By Southwest Screeenburn conference in Austin, Texas, I'll be moderating a panel entitled "Avatar-Based Marketing in Synthetic Worlds."

The panel description reads: "Synthetic, alternate worlds such as Second Life, There, and Habbo Hotel are populated by customizable, user-controlled avatars. These exciting spaces are increasingly being eyed as the next level in experiential marketing. Does a successful marketing effort target the user or the avatar? What are the best ways to capture and retain attention in a virtual world? Our panelists discuss the business, cultural, and ethical considerations of marketing to avatars." Details subject to change.

Panelists include Eric Gruber (MTV Freelance), Paul Hemp (Harvard Business Review), Lauren Wheeler (Three Rings Design), and Linda Zimmer (MarCom:Interactive). I'm pleased that we are able to present a diverse range of experience with the topic at hand. Among other pursuits, Eric Gruber has been heavily involved with Virtual Laguna Beach and Virtual Hills; Paul Hemp wrote the important article "Avatar-Based Marketing" last year, Lauren Wheeler is involved with Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates and an upcoming top-secret project using a microcurrency model; Linda Zimmer is the author of the Business Communicators of Second Life blog. As you may know, I have been a constant critic of Second Life-based business efforts over the last few years--as moderator, I intend to keep the discussion well-rounded and free of fluffing.
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