Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Will Dutch Court prosecute virtual theft?

Dutch prosecutors have demanded 180 hours of community service and conditional youth detention with a 2 year probation in case of theft of virtual goods in Runescape. This is the first time a Dutch Judge will have to say something on the value of virtual goods.

The suspects, two boys aged 14 and 15 alledgedly forced a 13 year old to transfer virtual items to their account in september 2007. Aside from physical abuse, the main issue in this case will be to judge wether or not virtual items can be considered goods which can be stolen and this can be considered a crime. If these goods have value to the owner, and he can no longer use them, then by traditional law this is judged theft. We'll have to see if this classifies in the same way.

It's not the first time a Virtual World makes it to Dutch court, last year a Dutchmen was apprehended for stealing furniture from Habbo hotel worth 4.000 Euro. By hacking accounts the Dutchmen could transfer these objects. Because Habbo Credits were bought with real money, the man was charged with hacking and theft. Uptill now, no conviction followed though.

The judge is expected to make a ruling in the Runescape case next week.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Dutch Banker goes Supermodel

Dutch Triple A rated bank Rabobank has been fiddling around with gadgets, widgets and virtual worlds a lot in the past years. Their first metaversal experience came from Why Robbie Rocks and in april 2008 the bank hit the typical avatar-based 'girlworld' goSupermodel targeted at a 12 to 17 year old audience, loosely styled like Habbo Hotel.

goSupermodel has about 250.000 unique visitors a month, which log in about 200 times a month and spend 22 minutes each session. Rabobank has launched a chatbot, called Yvette. Through the chatbot Yvette you can ask questions about finance. This financial coach is also reachable through SMS, MSN, Hyves and Live-spaces.

Actual numbers from the first week of operation are promising:
  • 5.881 mails to Yvette
  • 25.901 chatsessions with the girls
  • 44.305 visits to the Rabobank office

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Friday, October 12, 2007

VW Conference buzzwords: Interoperability and Portability

Christian Renaud's keynote this morning was generally received as an outstanding analysis of the Virtual World industry and the challenges that lie ahead of us if we want it to go mainstream.



Divergence


What it all boils down to is that the web, and especially the social web is getting very confusing. We need to have multiple identities, and now there are virtual identities to juggle as well. You've gotta go nuts if you have to juggle all that. This isn't much different from what I've blogged midway june (VeeJay juggles web 2.0 chaos). Like Christian said, we've failed to get openID into place when it comes to the web, let's try to get it right for virtual worlds.



Thought Leadership


In order to get this right for the Virtual World industry, several thoughtleaders met the day prior to the VW Conference, amongst which Cisco, IBM, Linden Lab and Philips. Linden Lab and IBM put forth a press release stating they are working on interoperability and portability. Other terms to describe this are unified communications between Virtual Worlds, or setting new industry standards (is it going to be VHS or Betamax?). IBM has made no secret of the fact that they have been pursuing this for months, the only speculation and blogosphere fuzz at the moment is that it's now an official tie-in with Linden Lab.



Convergence


So the market needs convergence, standards of portability to go mainstream. I personally feel this is a very, very good thing. In fact, I've been saying so for months. The real big challenges are:


  • How do you asses the value of virtual goods on various platforms in relation to other platforms
  • How do you get a sound Identity Management System in place

No consensus yet

In the beginning I said Christian's keynote was generally accepted as outstanding. Here's a few thoughts from the business

While talking to Craig Sherman on this he let me know that Gaia is pursuing its own target group and has no intention whatsoever to even start thinking about portability. pretty much the same goes for Habbo Hotel, as Timo Soininen doesn't see much chances to asses the value of goods for portability.

John K. Bates of Entropia / Mindark noted that value is generally based on user demand for goods and in a lot of instances World-specific. Like in Entropia you've got dung. Absolutely of no value if you return it to the Entropia caretakers, but a must have for landowners who need dung to fertilize their lands so they can grow monsters and tax those who come to their land to hunt monsters. So in entropia you might wanna be a dung-baron if you don't want to pay for stuff and still get rich.

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Virtual Goods, the next big business model?

Thursday, 3:00pm - 4:00pm


Virtual Goods: The Next Big Business Model


Virtual goods and currencies have become the driving economic force for a number of virtual world companies. What does it takes to build a successful company with a strong virtual goods business? What types of items do consumer want to buy and in what context are they motivated to continually buy or upgrade their virtual items? How do you grow a virtual goods business and what are the pitfalls? In what cases does a virtual goods business model triumph over advertising or subscription models?-




Speakers:




What kind of Virtual goods do we have out there? There's





  • Decorative
    - stuff to decorate your home, dress up etc.
    - collectible and branded decorative virtual goods usually have high ASP (average sales prices)


  • Functional
    - improved functionality like boosting your car
    - usually at a higher price than (non-collectible) decorative goods


  • Behavioral
    - user interaction driven goods, like gifts, expressing opinion.
    - highest profit margins


  • Branded


Here's some on the worlds represented in the panel:



GAIA- an online hangout for teens:





  • 2.5 visitors who spend 1hr/day on average.


  • 1 million forum posts per day


  • $ 100 K sales per day.


As for branded content Gaia especially added cars to the platform for Toyota Scion. Then they created body shops to customize the cars, then created hang out places like car parks for teens to meet and hang out with their rides.



GOPETS





  • Use pets as a catalyst for human social interaction, like when you walk the dog in RL you naturally start interacting with other dog-owners.


  • Your pet lives on after you log off.


  • These worlds are global, and especially for teens this can create problems when it comes to languages. GOPETS created Icu, an icon based language.


  • People love to buy trees which produce fruit, then harvest the fruit, make pies and sell those for gold and spend the gold on games


SULAKE / HABBO HOTEL





  • It's an easy to use Virtual World.


  • You can make a living trading virtual goods


  • core functionality is user generated content / rooms


  • open ended play is vital to VW's


  • Habbo Hotel supports about 170 different payment methods worldwide


  • If translated to real world goods, the annual Habbo Hotel turnover would be $600 million.


NEOPETS





  • Started out back in 1999, so a real ancient thing.


  • Trading virtual goods only began this year


  • now 750K in daily transactions


  • Evolution of the game / world and innovation comes from listening to the community.


  • Has a forum section on when it's the best time to ask your parents to pay for things.


The virtual worlds represented here get about 60 to 85% of their revenues from the sales of virtual goods.



Selling virtual goods and using it as a business model is pretty much about making purchases as easy as possible. Stimulate impuls buying without the hassle of having to get some money somewhere first.



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