Saturday, September 12, 2009

Real Estate Business Booming Again

In the last two days we have seen an enormous surge in the Real Estate business with thousands of new appartment blocks, parks and businesses being commisioned and built. It's not that the credit crunch is suddenly over, no it's the birth of Monopoly City Streets.

Monopoly City Streets is a flash based online game based on the legendary Monopoly board game we all used to play when we were kids, but immensely upscaled. Instead of the board Hasbro now uses Google Maps and you are able to build everywhere we like.

It's been two days since the launch of Monopoly City Streets, on 09-09, and I got online yesterday to check it out. Basic gameplay is quite easy: You get a stash of M 3,000,000 and you start clicking away. Buy streets and build houses to earn rent. The more streets you have connected, and the more densely populated the area is, the higher the income you get from rents.

I picked out a little old town in the Netherlands to start my real estate empire. I've bought a few streets and a couple of houses to get going and collect my rents. Basically, the game is turn based and gets updated daily. After my first day I was able to triple my networth from 3M to 9M.

As with the board game, you have chance cards; some for good, some for bad. With the chance cards you will be able to build bonus buildings, like sewers and plants that kill rents on a street, or parks and stadiums that will prevent others from placing sewers and plants on your streets.

Cheating

When looking at the world rankings you see that only after a 4 days of gameplay there are people with a networth over 2 billion, so the first question that comes to mind is: How to cheat? You are able to make bids on streets owned by other players. The minimum bid you have to do is the current value of the street, so it's not possible to create multiple accounts and sell good real estate for peanuts... but, the other way around probably does work: Create multiple accounts and offer 3 million M's for a street worth 100K for instance, feeding the main account with tons of money, and I think this is what's happening. It's impossible to go from 3M to 2B in 4 days.

Top accounts are obviously the most obvious candidates to target with sewers and plants. If you receive a bonuscard to build a plant, just build it on the street of a big spender in your region so he won't get income from these streets.

Big Cities

If you start building, you obviously want to be a big real estate tycoon at a top location. Forget it. Cities like New York, Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam are already taken. Well, not all streets are sold yet, but it is getting pretty crowded here. Below you'll see an overview of New York and Paris, with a detailed shot of both as well.



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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Virtual Banking (18): Volksbank and Raiffeisenbank

Among the first countries to ditch Second Life last summer were Germany and Austria, where public opinion rapidly went from ecstatic to outright negative and focus was laid on the dark side of Second Life. But they're back. Slowly (very slowly), companies are coming back to Second Life. This time it's the German based Volksbank and Raiffeisenbank which opened up their virtual shop earlier this week, making it real world bank number 18 to immerse itself in Second Life.

Initially I thought this build was from the Austrian based Volksbank AG, or Volksbank Group, but that's a mixup. This presence is the German Volksbank, a cooperation of different local banks.

Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken with over 15,7 million members and 30 million customers, is a pillar of the German banking industry and a major force in the German economy. As the central organization of the cooperative banking group, the BVR (Bundesverband der Deutschen Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken), functions as a promoter of, representative for, and a strategic partner of its members. [bvr]

Aside from an apparent turn in public opinion, this new endeavor supprisingly comes at a time in which most financial institutions keep a lid on their expenditure and innovation budget due to the Credit Crunch.

The Volksbank comes in a double sim presence, first of which is the Orientantion Island and the second one is the main sim. The main sim holds the VR Marktplatz (market) and VR Finanzlounge (finance lounge), which is built like a typical smalltown city center.


The Volksbank has a different approach to their presence than most other real life companies have, which is good. Most corporate sims are empty spaces, with only their own private little corporate build. Alongside the marketplace however, we find various shops, inworld, Second Life based boutiques. Also the Volksbank has set up a Real Estate agent at the corner of the marketplace, which offers building tips for building in Second Life. I think this is a very good crossover, as real estate products and real estate financing are closely tied in with the core products of a bank.




While exploring the sim I ran into two Volksbank teammembers, Alexander Auerbach and teamleader Pedro Barbosa, who kindly gave me some background information. The Volksbank presense is mainly a research project which is not directly focussed on doing actual banking business in Second Life, but in getting in touch with their clients. They want to collect experience which can help them improve their services and consultancy. They do want to find out though how far one can go in 'vermittlung', consultancy in an environment like this.

Their Second Life presence will a place to meet new customers, but since finance is a very private business, follow ups will have to be done the old fashioned way, with visits to your local bank. The lack of privacy was also one of the reasons ABN Amro moved over to Active Worlds.

They were quick to point out that the presence isn't finished yet, and were still working on filling in some details. The concept for the sim was made by people from GAD, a calculating center for banks and a member of the Volksbank cooperation. Also cooperative banks like the geno-verband Stuttgart and Rheinisch-Westfälischer Genossenschaftsverband participate in this build, which are both part of the Volksbank coop as well. The concept developed by GAD was checked with a Second Life agency though to see if it would hold up, but the build was entirely done with own employees.

Here's two promo videos about the Volksbank presense in Second Life:







SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/VR%20Land/114/19/24

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Real Work in Virtual Worlds

One of the questions that have crossed my mind a lot in the last year is on how to make virtual worlds fit for business. So when I received Forrester's thoughts on this in the report "Getting Real Work Done In Virtual Worlds" (January 7, 2008) I was anxious to know how they would answer the question.




Here's the Executive Summary:

"Virtual worlds like Second Life, There.com, and more business-focused offerings are on the brink of becoming valuable work tools. Major companies and public-sector organizations — such as BP, IBM, Intel, and the US Army — are investing heavily in virtual world technologies. But it’s still early, pioneering days. You’ve practically got to be a gamer to use most of these tools — setup can bearduous, navigating in a 3-D environment takes practice, and processing and bandwidth requirements remain high. But within five years, the 3-D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today.

Information and knowledge management professionals should begin to investigate and experiment with virtual worlds. Use them to try to replicate the experience of working physically alongside others; allow people to work with and share digital 3-D models of physical or theoretical objects; and make remote training and counseling more realistic by incorporating nonverbal communication into same-time, different-place interactions."

For me, the Executive Summary doesn't answer the question. The summary doesn't provide answers to how we should go about business in virtual worlds and why it is important. The table of contents holds a good promise though:

  1. Much Of Today’s Technology Leaves Communication Problems Unsolved
  2. Now Entering: Virtual Worlds As A Real Business Tool
  3. Virtual Worlds Can Reduce Costs And Improve The Work Experience
  4. Lots Of Fantastic Efforts Are Going On “In World”
  5. What’s Holding The Business Use Of Virtual Worlds Back?

You can find the Executive Summary and order the full report here.

To get into a little more detail: The problems of today's technology are challenges, such as working together in real time while in seperate locations, expenses and climate stress while traveling to conferences and events and training on complex equipment and hazardous environments are topics that could well be adressed by virtual worlds.

However, the future of Virtual Workspaces is not in naming the obvious. I think there won't be many people that see a 3 dimensional space as an added value to, let's say Real Estate development or as an extra medium for automotive companies to play with prototypes and receive user feedback.

The Forrester report offers quite a list of 'practical' situations in which you can use Virtual Workspaces to conduct business:

  • Holding new and improved virtual meetings
  • enhancing military training and simulation
  • providing therapy, counseling and medical information
  • recruiting from a worldwide labor supplu
  • conducting virtual trade shows and conferences

The report actually names a dozen more suggestions, and gives explanations, but you'd have to order report yourself to find out which ;)

The report doesn't tell me how we can conduct down to earth business. For example, in which way would Virtual Workspaces enhance logistical services, construction, food & beverage, law firms etcetera. When virtual worlds get more direct api's to office software (charts, spreadsheets, word processing) it seems the Virtual World has a lot to offer for every part of companies except the actual workfloor where the products are made.

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Real Estate developer BPF Bouwinvest

Today I visited a sim called BPF Bouwinvest, a doublesim actually. It's the virtual foothold for the Dutch Real Estate corporation BPF Bouwinvest. The BPF holding deals in retirement funds and about 25% of these funds have been invested in real estate through their subsidiary Bouwinvest.

Bouwinvest on their presence in Second Life:

“De visie van BPF Bouwinvest is dat gebiedsontwikkeling steeds kennisintensiever wordt. Niet alleen wat economische - en vastgoed-ontwikkelingen betreft, maar ook wat betreft kennis van klanten en gebruikers. BPF Bouwinvest is daarom
continue bezig haar kennis hierover te vergroten en wil haar aanwezigheid in Second Life vooral gebruiken om meer inzicht op te bouwen in de wensen van haar doelgroepen. De huurder of eindgebruiker vormt het beginpunt van het product-ontwikkelingsproces door ze er al in de beginfase actief bij te betrekken, bijvoorbeeld door prototypes in Second Life te ontwikkelen en te verfijnen. Daarnaast is het doel om ervaring op te doen met nieuwe communicatievormen en feedback te krijgen over innovatieve bouw- en serviceconcepten.”

Basically what it comes down to is that BPF Bouwinvest thinks that area development is more and more becoming a knowledge intensive specialism and it aims to use their Second Life presence to enhance their knowledge about the wishes of their consumers. Second Life is seen as a platform to prototype in collaboration with the end user and to gain experience with new means of communication and receive feedback on their building and service concepts.



The main venue of the Bouwinvest 1 sim is the appartment building De Witte Keizer (White Emperor) which is an exact replica of one of their assets in Rotterdam. The replica has been developed by Interlocuteur M., a Second Life business consultant. If you're interested in renting one of the appartments, you can contact the real estate agent directly from Second Life.



Here's a short vid about the build:



For a Real Estate company and investment fund, this is quite a logical approach to utilising virtual worlds. Yet, I'm not impressed. The Witte Keizer is about the only building on the sim (aside from a few other thingies). I'd rather seen a fully built sim with real estate, a more urban approach.

Their second sim has a focus on user generated content and displays builds from the building contest they've organised in May 2007. The winning design (bottom right) won a free private sim for 6 months.










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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sim in a Box

Building a proper sim takes time, a whole lot of time, unless you are a master builder like Lordlfy. But if you're just that average kind of bloke who barely scraped together the money to buy a complete sim and you want to make money from renting out property, you'll want it up and running smooth and (especially) fast.


So your sim is in and you want to rent out as soon as possible, since you don't have Anshe's wallet to be able to leave it unused for a year or so. Monthly tiers can be a killer to many starters. For those the Sim in a Box might be a very good solution that can jumpstart your sim.
The Things to Do group got a demo today of how to build a sim in 5 minutes. Well, it works.
Though I'm not really charmed. I like mine with a little more labour-of-love touch than what this instant-sim HUD does.
However, from a technical point of view, I think this is a big step forward. Predefine content and make it rapidly deployable, auto rezzing your inventory might be huge timesavers.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Amsterdam simsale blown

A while ago we reported that Stroker's notorious representation of Amsterdam had been sold on eBay for the formiddable price of $ 50,000. Today Second Life Insider reports that the deal has gone wrong.

The buyers, Nedstede (an Amsterdam based real estate broker), were under the assumption that they'd bought the whole thing but failed to understand the intellectual property rights in Second Life. This goes for textures, scripts and content owned by the sims tenants.

This isn't the first deal that falls through on the same issue. IP's are a key factor in Second Life's success and the good thing is that once again it is confirmed that you own what you have created. This doesn't end Stroker's wish to get rid of the sim, expect it to be up for sale soon again.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Dutch Reallife Real Estate immersed

As often is the case, it was Aleister Kronos who pointed me towards the new sim webbatach stating it had something to do with the town of Koolhoven. The town name was totally unfamiliar to me, so I went in to see what it's all about.

It turns out to be that Koolhoven is the name of a new residential area on the borders of the town of Tilburg in North-Brabant (it seems like Brabant is really going into SL as there are sims called Tilburg, Eindhoven and Brabantstad).

So the sim is an impression of the new residential area and has been set up by the participating Real Estate brokers. It will give (potential) buyers some time to get the look and feel of the home that still needs to be build. A great thing really if you have mod-rights to the house so you can do some decorating yourself, change the color of the ceiling, adding a new wallpaper etcetera, and of course, move around with your furniture to see if it all fits in.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Racer group expects landprice drop

NAUTILUS IV - Close to the ESC cluster a humongous grey block on the sattelite appeared. At least 60 sims are lined up by the Linden Labs for auctioning. Thai Racer, owner of the Racer Real Estate doesn't look happy. "There's too many out there as it is." he said, and expects landprices may see a surge downward.

Many virtual residents would look at it from the opposite, as many still believe prices are too high. A passing Sandbox Ghost remarked that he's still waiting for that 200-sim desert, but also noticed that Linden is using new terrain textures.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virtual Fortunes

As Lordly already posted, businessweek is doing an SL special, here's the interesting part:

"Meet the virtual world moguls. The number of Second Life residents generating more than $5,000 in monthly income has more than quadrupled to 116 in the past year."

The millionares:

  1. Phillip Rosendale (the guy who did SL)
  2. Ailin Graef(Anshe Chung real estate)
  3. Reuben Steiger (Millions of Us)
  4. Sibley Verbeck (Electric Sheep)
  5. Alyssa LaRoche (Aimee Weber)
  6. Adam Frisby (real estate)
  7. Kevin Alderman (Strokerz Toys & Amsterdam Sim)
  8. Peter Lokke (clothing)
  9. Christiano Diaz (snapzilla SL)
  10. Adam Anders (whatever, over 100.000 sales a day)

To wrap it up: No 1 is the one who dunnit, 2 real estate owners, 3 big builders, 2 clothing &kinky toys and 1 sidekick. So if you're not good at actually doing something, you can always invest in real estate.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fairchang Real Estate

Second Life's first and foremost real estate millionare Anshe Chung inspired many to invest in virtual land. One of the big newcomers is Fairchang Real Estate. Just south of IBM's Codestation and Dev World, the socalled Developers Archipelago, a whole new continent is emerging from the virtual sea.
As per now it consists of nearly forty sims, and if all rented / sold, should be able to give mr. Garth Fairchang a healthy little something to spend.

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Real Life Cities 1: Amsterdam

When in Holland and you want to start a conversation on Second Life, or any other immersive world for that matter, the discussion is bound to touch virtual Amsterdam very soon. Amsterdam is probably the best known sim in Holland, mentioned in almost every SL story.

It usually is referred to as one of the largest sims (forgetting that all sims are created equal), or largest builds. The sim itself encompasses Amsterdam Central Station, the Damrak and the Dam itself with the monument, the New Church and the Royal Palace. Then there are some canals lined with shops. It's hardly a surprise to see half the shops are sex related. When making that conclusion, it's no surprise to see Amsterdam always is one of the favorite places in the Metaverse.


Since I don't dig virtual sex, I judged slamsterdam by it's architectural values. It's true that it is heavily built, and there's an enormous amount of textures used, making the sim very slow to render, which for me is a show-stopper.

The sim was originally built by Strokerz Toy, but was recently purchased by Nedstede, an Amsterdam based real estate firm. The sim was actioned at E-bay and the deal closed at 50,000 euro. I'm not sure the clientele is what they would like to see in Real Life.

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Amsterdam/128/128/0

If Nedstede is willing to spend that amount of money, they should call Lordlfy who did an extremely good impression of Amsterdam for SL's 2nd Relay for Live event in 2006. Though the sim is no longer live, its contents can be found somewhere in the deeps of Lordfly's inventory. Here are some impressions:


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