Sunday, October 05, 2008

Breaking News: Virtual Worlds London cancelled due to shooting

Metaverse Week in Review just reports that the VWF London has been rescheduled due to a shooting.

Here's the official report from the VWF Website:

URGENT! VWF is rescheduled.

Early this morning there was an unrelated incident at the venue in which a member of the public was shot. The police have closed off the venue for three days, which means that we cannot use it for Virtual Worlds Forum.

With less than day to go, we cannot find an alternative venue over these dates. So we have taken the very difficult decision to reschedule the event.

What it means for you is

  1. The event will not take place as planned on Monday and Tuesday.
  2. For those people who are in London, the Four Day members pass to the Hospital is still available. Please go to 24 Endell St, London, WC2H 9HQ to collect your pass – there’s quite a few people in town, so lots of people to hang out with.
  3. The South by South West party on Monday night is still going ahead.

And obviously we are planning the reschedule and we will give you details as soon as we have them.

We are very very sorry for the inconvenience. We will do our utmost to make sure that you get the most out of your involvement with VWF and keep you informed as regularly as we can.

Sasha and the VWF Team

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

VWN kicks off VW Innovation Award

Through: Virtual World News

There has been a huge amount of innovation in virtual worlds over the past year. To acknowledge that fact, we at Virtual Worlds Management are kicking off a new awards program to recognize top innovators at the Virtual Worlds Expo in Los Angeles on September 3-4, 2008.

"Innovators" is a broad term, though. To help us finalize both the concept of the awards and pick the winners, we've tapped experts from throughout the industry without ties to any one product: I (this is Joey Seiler, Editor, Virtual Worlds News) will be chairing the Virtual Worlds Innovation Awards, but I'm excited to have plenty of help with the heavy lifting from Christian Renaud (CEO, Technology Intelligence Group), Erica Driver (Co-Founder and Principal, ThinkBalm), Nic Mitham (Managing Director, K Zero), Steve Prentice (VP and Fellow, Gartner), and Robert Bloomfield (Founder and Host, Metanomics; Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Director of the Business Simulation Laboratory, Cornell's Johnson School). I know several of them are soliciting advice from the audiences of their respective blogs and shows. I'll welcome any insight as well. Feel free to shoot me an email or a leave a suggestion in the comments.

We will announce the Virtual Worlds Innovation Award winners at the Virtual Worlds Expo on Wednesday evening, 5:00 to 6:00pm, Wednesday, September 3, 2008, on the stage in the expo hall. The reception kicks off with free beer for attendees, celebration, and a good time for everyone.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

CSI (8): The Conclusion

In a day or two the VW Conference in New York starts. Last october, in the San Jose edition, we had CSI creator Anthony Zuiker as one of the Keynote speakers on the CSI:NY & Second Life mashup. Although we had high anticipations, the actual numbers flocking to Second Life after the show aired were largely disappointing.

Well, the VW Conference is back, and so is CSI. Nic Mitham from KZero puts it nicely:

Well, it’s back with the second part of the story and being aired tonight on CBS. On a related note, it is me or does the timing here seem a little spooky? First episode - just after VW Fall, second episode the night before day one of the NY show. Maybe someone should investigate that.

During the VW Conference in October Zuiker said the plan was to air the second episode in February, but somehow that was delayed. Some even speculated it was cancelled, but yesterday I read this at one of the Electric Sheep blogs;

Tomorrow, at 10, CBS will air the long awaited conclusion to Down the Rabbit Hole and wrap up the story of everybody’s favorite cyberceleb turned killer, Venus.

If you saw last week’s teaser for tomorrow’s episode, then aside from hearing an interesting cover of “Back in the New York Groove” you saw a few machinima shots in the trailer (including the one above.) But, while we can’t really give away any plot points, we can say – there’s more than you saw in the promo.

What’s different about this time though, is that we have some awesome behind the scenes pics we’ll be posting and linking to (courtesy of Damien Fate) explaining how we did some of the shots and showing what went into making them.

A little digging brought me to the official press release:


Primetime CBS Series Offers A Glimpse Into The Future Of 3D Animation Using Electric Sheep’s Machinima

March 31, 2008 — NEW YORK, NY —

CBS drama CSI:NY and the Electric Sheep Company partner to wrap up the Virtual
World killer plot line in the upcoming episode “DOA for a Day” on CSI:NY,
Wednesday, April 2 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
The first part of the episode titled, “Down The Rabbit Hole” which originally aired, Wednesday, October 24th will re-air this Wednesday, March 26 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

In “DOA for a Day” the CSI’s, working with an anonymous tip, travel to an abandoned warehouse and back into the virtual 3D computer world where they hope to find one of the city’s most-wanted criminals.

The Electric Sheep Company, a leading virtual world services company, was hired to supply the animation for both episodes. The machinima was produced by the former ILL Clan, machinima pioneers acquired by the Electric Sheep Company in January 2007 to head their machinima animation division.

“Speed is what distinguishes machinima from all other forms of animation,” says machinima animation director Kerria Seabrooke. “In spite of the extremely tight deadline, we still had time to focus on details such as seamless animations, the richness of color, the flow of fabric, the metallic reflection on a gun, which bring the virtual world into the realm of high-end 3D animation.”

Machinima (machine + cinema) animation differs from traditional 3D animation because it is similar to shooting film or TV. It’s shot in real time without the long rendering times that traditional 3D computer animation requires. The real-time aspect of machinima animation was very important on this project, as there was a two-week turnaround time from script to completed animation.

In addition to the animation, an ongoing cross platform experience was created last fall in the virtual world of Second Life by the Electric Sheep Company in conjunction with CBS and Anthony E. Zuiker (creator of the CSI Franchise). The experience includes a virtual lab where users can recreate the experiments and tests from the show as they solve one crime per month.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

vBusiness Expo - April 2008

It's been a couple of months since I heard the first plans from Clever Zebra to organise yet another vw conference and expo. Here's the first announcement:

The vBusiness Central project in Second Life will launch in April with a 4 day Expo, to be held bi-yearly in April and October (which coincides with the Virtual World Conference).

The conference aims to cover 4 key areas:

We'll be announcing dates and details very shortly. If you want to keep up with developments, including other Clever Zebra events and product updates then join our email list to be first with the news.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

More more more worlds

After writing on the new Beta launches for RipLounge and Magi Nation I noticed a number of posts over at the KZero blog which also report on new teenworlds getting ready for launch. What is it these days that one after the other company releases their world?

The answer is probably very simple. A number of these worlds have been targeted to open up in 'early 2008' and didn't make the deadline in januari, but the prime reason for this sudden onrush is the Virtual World Conference, the industry's largest stage for promotion. The spring edition of the conference will be held in New York from 3 - 4 april and has a dedicated track for Kid and Teen Worlds.

Lego Universe

One of the most interesting new releases probably is the Lego Universe. Most interesting probably because of old-times-sake; Which one of us didn't grow up with Lego? KZero adds:

"Maybe they’ll also launch a Technical Lego version for us older kids"

Cartoon Network: Fusion Fall

Next in-line is a Cartoon Network release named Fusion Fall. You'd expected this one to spring next fall, but its scheduled for release this Spring.... maybe they've got their seasons fused.

Build a Bear

The youngest segment of the market, the under 10s also is a highly competative corner of the industry. Largest in this segment is NeoPets and now there's a bear world: Build a Bear Ville.

The Build a Bear world has the advantage that it already has a number of fans out there in the real world, as the brand has been around for some 10 years now.

Since 1997, at Build-A-Bear Workshop® we have created a safe place where your child can play, express their creativity and use their imagination. Please be assured that we bring these same qualities you value and trust about Build-A-Bear Workshop in the real world into our new virtual world of™

In this competative market it will be very hard for a truly new kid on the block to make a major stand, and it may well be that this will be the way to go for a number of 'established' toy companies.


Last in Line this week is another fuzzy name: VizWoz. It's probably best to quote KZero at this one:

"With phrases such as ‘the next big virtual community’, ‘Set to become the most dynamic virtual world’ and ‘virtual reality in its most realistic form’ Vizwoz sounded like a pretty exciting place"

But then the presentation went a little wrong...

So, I turned up and logged in at 4.55pm to beat the rush. First impressions, a standard 2.5d flash-based UI with click and glide avatar customisation. Ok, so what’s the differentiator here? How does this world plan to stand out from the (growing) number of MMOG’s and VW’s aimed at kids? What’s the revenue model? And where is everyone else?

I was given the wrong URL, no big deal. So, a quick logout and login took me back. The founder was set to arrive at 5 to give a tour of Vizwoz. Excellent I thought. And a chance to ask some questions beforehand. Even better. I managed
to ask five questions before he had to leave.

  1. What’s the target age range? Dan said 11 - 14. I actually asked this question to the PR agency before hand and they said 7 -14.
  2. What’s the gender split from the beta? 47% boys
  3. How many people were on the beta? 5,000.
  4. What’s the business model? Premium, was the answer. Premium what?

My fifth question was the one I was most interested in - differentiation. I managed to ask it but unfortunately Dan had to leave at this point. This was a shame, but one should remember that the site had just gone live to the public.
He did briefly give me the answer of ‘have you seen the GUI?’. Yes, I saw it, but that’s not differentiation - it’s a means to an end. The overall experience is good, it’s smooth and the interface works well but I still a feeling of something missing.

Read the rest of the KZero review here.

I guess we'll have to see how it turns out, but making a first impression like this might end any chance of success even before the world actually sees the light of day.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Exodus ain't gonna happen

Yesterday I picked up a BBC News story on people flocking to Virtual Worlds. The article is a little outdated, it dates back to december 11 2007, but I tend to disagree here. Here's part of the newsstory:

'Exodus' to virtual worlds predicted

Will real pubs empty as people head for virtual watering holes?The appeal of online virtual worlds such as Second Life is such that it may trigger an exodus of people seeking to "disappear from reality," an expert on large-scale online games has said.

Virtual worlds have seen huge growth since they became mainstream in the early years of this decade, developing out of Massive Multiplayer Role-Playing Games.

And the online economies in some match those of real world countries.

Their draw is such that they could have a profound effect on some parts of society, Edward Castronova, Associate Professor in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University, told BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme.

"My guess is that the impact on the real world really is going to involve folks disappearing from reality in a lot of places where we see them," he said.

(read more)

Edward Castronova was one of the speakers at the VW Conference in San Jose (october 2007) and made regular appearances on the Clever Zebra, formerly known as Metaversed Metanomics sessions and usually has some pretty smart things to say. In this case I thinks he's off by miles. There won't be a mass exodus for a long time to come I think.

The only thing we have to go by is the number of subscriptions to these worlds. Not all worlds are giving out these stats as freely as Second Life, nor do they provide information on activity in these worlds. Cisco's Christian Renaud did a quick scan of the industry for his keynote at the VW Conference and came up with 450 million registered users in about 30 NVE's, (online gaming as well as social worlds). After the conference we hooked up our info and I did a survey of about 200 of these worlds. As far as public data goes, I could barely find another 10 million registered users in other worlds.

The percentage of active users in the gameverse is a lot higher than in the social metaverse, more like an 60% tot 10% division, so going by these numbers we could assume there are about 100 million active NVE users out there. Then there's the definition of how much activity you need to have before being active. Linden Lab defines Active as spending 1 hour a week.

Then we have to take into account that there are a lot of body doubles. I myself have accounts in a dozen virtual worlds and there are other geeks, bloggers, journalists, trendwatchers etcetera who are active in several worlds to keep up with technology. The supposed 100 million than has to be devided by maybe 5 accounts on average so we end up with 20 million users worldwide which spend about 1 hour a week in virtual worlds. True, that's more than the whole population of the Netherlands, but globally speaking still a niche market.

When we look at social websites, like YouTube, MySpace etcetera and add up all the registered accounts we have about 3 times as many subscribers as there are internet connections worldwide. What I do think is a trend is the new digital Tribal Migration where users move from one world to the other as usability and functionality are still evolving.

A last thought on why this Exodus isn't going to happen anytime soon is that we've seen the number of registered users explode last year, while social NVE's were going into hype-modus. 2008 will probably see a downward trend in user activity, as most social worlds will not be able to meet expectations (gameverse is another story). This will last a while untill we find real corporate use and means of business integration for Virtual Worlds.This will happen though, but then again, when it really goes mainstream and NVE's become a Business Tool, still there won't be an exodus. There will be millions of new subscriptions and active business users, but on the whole the social part of these worlds will still struggle in keeping the attention of most users.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

What's interoperability?

This afternoon I spent over an hour on the phone with Chritian Renaud, Chief Metaversal Bigshot at Cisco. Yes, that's right on the phone.... media 1.0 so to say. As I was on a sogeti-issued IBM T43 laptop I couldn't get Second Life to work (Ian please tell me this can be fixed) and also Skype failed.

After a good personal update (the us, timezone issues, busy schedules, kids, traffic jams, Prokofy Neva and stuff) we got down to business discussing the Metaverse and one of the VW Conference's buzzwords interoperability.

It remains hard to define the industry of NVE's, Networked Virtual Environments or virtual worlds. There's a mega grey area. You just can't categorize it straightforwardly. And yet we're trying. I'm doing so, Nick Wilson over at Metaversed is doing so, Christian is doing so and KZero is attempting much of the same.

It gets even harder when you get to discussing interoperability and some sort of unified communications or standardisation between these worlds. There's a few worlds out there that have a positive attitude towards the initiative, but others don't (see this post). What exactly is interoperability? Do we just throw all virtual worlds into a blender, find a common denominator, standardise it and run the risk of us all walking around in milky white avatars with jelly-green shirts and denying us all to use the potential of individual platforms?

Christian did quite a good blog on this over at Cisco: "Ode to Interoperability" It's truth, perhaps not the whole truth. It's a discussion. We're not there yet. What it all boils down to is that one of the key-elements will be Identity Management on the web. Christian tried to voice this in his piece, much of the same, not for virtual worlds, but for everyday web usage I run into every day, just like in my previous blogpost. I do have some thoughts to add to this discussion, but that'll have to wait. Bedtime now.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

First European Machinima Festival

Right after the Virtual World Conference (10-11 october) there was the European Machinima Festival in Leicester ( 12-14 october). No less than 3 Second Life production went home with a price:
  • BEST COMMERCIAL: ‘When the postman spits twice‘ (SL-Inworld Productions)
  • BEST TECHNICAL: ‘Machinima Island‘ (la.interactive)
  • BEST SERIES: ‘The Grid Review‘ (ILL Clan)
‘New World Wonder‘ byPlanet Video and ‘Everwind‘ by ARFV Productions were also part of the official festival selection. This year Second Life is rapidly gaining ground in the machinima business.
Number of Award winners by platform:
  • Second Life: 3

  • Sims II: 1

  • MotionBuilder: 1

  • Halo II: 2

  • Half-Life II: 1

  • 3D Game Studio: 3 (same machinima)

With 3 awards the machinima 'Stolen Life' was the big winner of the festival. The machinima's initials SL haven't got anything to do with the platform it was produced on. 'Stolen Life' was produced by the Australian company Nanoflix.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

New VW tech

During the Virtual World Conference 2007 (Fall edition, San Jose) lots of companies were showing off at the Expo. Platforms like Active Worlds, Multiverse and, had a stand. Then there were lots of complimentary tech stands as well, ranging from avatar creating, 3D Modelling to motion capture. Here's the Icarus Studio stand:

From their website:
Icarus Studios is focused on helping our clients launch online virtual worlds,
MMOGs, simulators and 3D collaborative and educational products. We enable our
client's vision with our unique combination of next generation technology and
services, making Icarus a comprehensive resource center for those tasked with
quickly creating all or components of these initiatives. From complete project
development, platform and tool licensing to studio services and library
resources, Icarus will work within our client's time and budget constraints to
quickly create a quality product that meets their objectives.

Another very well visited booth was the stand that IBM had rezzed

Here's what Epredator / Ian Hughes had to say over at Eightbar:

Our stand we had both SL, Active Worlds and the IQ Metaverse (the torque based
one). We also have Jacques from the SMB media and entertainment and the guys
from Vivox there. There was another part to the stand over with Icarus and that
was where Peter Finn set up shop with his alpha demo of blending virtual worlds
with a browser. That needs a whole post in its own right of course.I had a good
chat with most of the stands, though it is amazaing how little time you end up
having when you are talking to press, analysts and bumping into the metarati
that you know from in world and on Twitter.

And certainly the meterati were there. Not all of them, and not all those present considered to be on the official metarati list (but some will make it there I think as the list needs updating.)

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Virtual World Conference wrap up

It's friday and the conference is over. Still got tons to blog though. '

I'm noticing I'm going quite randomly through my notes and don't really put up the speaches and notes in the presented order. Just browse on for the ins and outs of the conference.

All in all, the conference was a success I think, from a VW point of view, as well as a personal and business point of view. I've finally met lots of people on my twitter and linked-in list, and established several new connections and got tons of inspiration to dwell on

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Best Practises for employees

Thursday, 1:30pm - 2:30pm

Best Practices for Employees in Virtual Worlds

With companies issuing avatars to large groups of employees what are the best practices required to create a smooth operating environment for those individuals. What standard operating procedures should be implemented to create the best experience a company projects when sending employees into public virtual worlds?


  • Bob Ketner, Creative Director, Studio SFO
  • Adrienne Haik, Metaversatility, Inc.

Bob gave a pretty fast ramble on best practises, kind of hard to keep up with taking notes. Here's a few tidbits though:

Why is doing Business in a VW a good idea?

  • Employees are already there
  • It can solve problems
    - I can't reach you
    - too little time to come over
    - info retrieval
  • Gamers are doing it better
    - Gamers focus on getting the job done (single action focus)
    - Gamers are selforganising folk
    - Your new (young) employees are aleardy gamers
    - Are using PC's a lot more effectively

Work can be a drag. How many of you say "Hey I can't wait to get to work on monday", and how many say "I can't wait to play World of Warcraft tonight".

IBM is currently looking into World of Warcraft Guilds, as it takes Guildmasters a lot of experience and compentence to manage all these guildmembers. These Guildmasters are actually people that distill and manipulate digital info in an advanced way. So which skills are involved?

The Avatar as a Uniform

Metaversatility's Adrienna Haik gave an insight as to how serious business in a VW can get.

  • It's important for employees to understand they are in a virtual workspace, and not a game.
    -Let your people take it serious and avoid them flying around during discussions and stuff.
    - Visible clues like chairs, desks and other office furniture may help.
    - Set up different spaces for different forms of communication and interaction.
  • Interaction guidelines, rules of engagement for the natives
    - How do you react to weird encounters? Your clients my come in as Furry's. A client new to SL can go ballistic if he's shocked by some appearances.
    - Take time for clients and new employees to acclimate. Take them shopping for instance.
    -Respect the community. You're on their turf.
  • Your avatarname is associated with your business.
    - Like with email, use a personal and business avatar.
    - Think about sexual harassment by avatars representing your brand
    - Your employee is your best marketing instrument inworld. Have them take the brand serious and advocate it.

There were several things in here which I didn't agree on. Especially the private and professional avatar distinction. I've only got one avatar as the lines between work and play are blurring. We're in a global business now and shifting timezones lead to business encounters at many different hours. Nor do I see the leaders of the industry, like Ian Hughes (IBM), Jeff barr (Amazon) and Christian Renaud (Cisco) have different avatars.

When speaking to Jeff Barr on this after the session was done he came up with several good reasons. First of all, these are community leaders. They've got a very professional attitude towards second life and have to build relations on their reputation. Switching Identities makes you have to build multiple reputations. Another thing (which at least goes for Jeff himself) is that they've probably all had PR training and know what they can and can't say. A third reason why you may not consider switching avatars is by self-protection. For some people there might be tempting stuff in Second Life. If you want to stay away from that, it's a strong motivator if you've got a reputation to think off.

It might be different though for regular employees who come into a virtual world to do some work then go off again. They have a completely different precense than their community leaders.

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Big Business Money based on trust

Thursday, 4:30pm - 5:30pm

Virtual Currency / Virtual Business = Big Business Money

(Virtual currency) exchanges promise the opportunity to stimulate virtual economies not just throughout individual virtual worlds but across worlds. Join us for a discussion on what the future will look like as these exchanges take off and how users will conduct commerce. What does it take to build and foster a thriving virtual economy?

John Bates of Entropia was double booked, so he started off with a little insight on Entropia. This virtual world is the only one that has it's currency really pegged with the US Dollar at an exchange rate of 1 USD to 10. Entropia is a mixed world with gaming and social elements and when things cost you real money, it changes the came. Buying guns and bullets that cost you (even if it's nano-payment) makes the game take on a new dimension.

Anshe Chung Studios now is one of the largest of 45.000 profitable companies in Second Life, with total assets going up to the region of 800 islands / sims. What would happen if they withdrew all their assets at once? Both John Z of Linden Lab and Guntram Graef aren't afraid it would blow the economy. Linden Lab is putting on about the same amount of servers every month. Stop that for a month and the economy will stabelize.

The same happened with the banning of Gambling, said Zdanowski. We had to do this because of US regulations or run the risk of being shut down. Overnight the user to user transactions dropped with 40%. Was gambling such a large part? Not really. Zdanowski estimates that gambling was only up to 3% of the market. The exchange rate never dropped and within 3 weeks the stock exchange was level again. The Linden Dollar has been very stable in the past year and a half, leaving not much room for money traders and fluctiating only a couple of Linden cents to the dollar in this period.

Zdanowsky doesn't see the Linden Dollar as a real currency though, but more a licence to use certain aspects of Second Life. Residents have to have trust in the currency, it's stability, in order for Virtual Worlds to create successfull economies. Earlier this month Linden had to add VAT to their game for European Users. This also because of international monetary regulations, and the Lindens are fully aware that this puts European users, about 35% of their community at about a 20% disadvantage. User to User transactions aren't taxed though.

I asked John Z and Guntram how to make the economy safe, as in the Netherlands we've seen a story extortion and abuse over Runescape money several weeks back. Also think of money laundring between virtual worlds through the Anshe Chung Exchange. No problem here again, according to Linden's CFO. They're monitoring transactions and if there's a resident wanting to buy Linden dollars worth say 10.000 USD he'd personally invite them to fly in and find out what the heck they would wanna do with the money. This economy is based on trust. One fundamental rule for us is to know our residents. We know who makes money. It can happen that all of a sudden you're a new sucessfull virtual entrepeneur, but then I'd like to personally meet you and get to know your business. He expects the next wave of regulatory action to take place in the banking sector in Second Life and Linden have hired a hotshot laywer and former internet crime prosecutor to be up to speed with all the world wide regulations regarding this.

There is a lot of scepcis, a lot of resistance against Linden playing a strategy that's so much hands-on on the economy. Yet Virtual Worlds do take a new place in the world of global economy. They're dealing with micropayments all over the world. The European VAT regulation was never designed for this, it was designed to protect the local market in the 80's as US based companies like AOL started pricedumping their ISP services on the European market. Now Linden has to deal with it, or again risk shutdown in Europe. In my personal opinion, they're on the right track. John's solid performance was a sign of confidence on behalf of the Lindens that they're on top of the game.

Final tidbits:

  • Chung obtained an Entropia Banking Licence earlier this week

  • Chung is now implementing an interface to exchange IMVU credits

  • Chung also provides Venture Capital for virtual startups.

  • It took Peter Philips, former Linden Lab employee less than three weeks to program the Lindex

  • Entropia has a Swedish banking licence

  • Companies have to closely watch the market to stabalize it. Neither inlation or deflation is a good thing for an economy, even if it is virtual.

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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.


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.


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?-


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.


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Christian's Keynote: What''s next?

Christian Renaud , Cisco – What’s Next?

This isn’t the first attempt to start virtual worlds and virtual business. This has a long history. And there are many steps to be made to get to the next level.

In 1988 there was a seminar on interoperability, TCP/IP and there were just a few attendees, five years later it was mass market.

What’s different right now is that we have all this creative energy. We’ve got mmorpgs, we’ve got unified communication tools. Taking that and combining it and slamming that together at this high speed and you can use Second Life or World of Warcraft as business tools.

It fills a need in the technology toolbox. Cisco likes to make probabilities from possibilities.

  • We have 6.5 billion people on the planet.
  • 2.3 b mobile phones (1/3)
  • 1.2 b internet connectivity (1/6)

That’s the audience for virtual worlds.

  • 465 M VW users (excluding Asia) appr. 1/12)
  • 45 M are active virtual residents, not tourists.

That’s about as big as all the early communities (compuserve, the well, aol, eworld etc) together had at their peak.

“We have to make the community grow, so I don’t have to explain what I do over and over again to the guy sitting next to me on the plane.”

We’ve failed with instant messaging. We’ve got these big walled gardens and need multiple clients to talk to all our friends. Do we need to find a standard, or do we have to have just one platform? We have to have interoperability. There has to be no switching cost. You have to be able to choose which platform gives you the best return on your investment.

There’s a 40 million people market, and as a business you have to choose one in 40 platforms, that’s a bad choice to get your ROI.

If we had this discussion about platforms 10 years ago we wouldn’t have web. Platform shouldn’t be the discussion. It’s the content put on it.

There are too many genetics and too many usecases to get one-size fits all jacket. It’s different tools for different jobs. There’s a number of different dimensions, like mobile and peer to peer needs that have to find a place in this landscape.

It’s not my intend to be a big corporation that brings in a bulldozer and levels the diversity of the landscape and put out a huge concrete mall strip. There has to be different modalities, variation between fun and work.

Attention is the only currency left. Attention needs diversity. Howver, work needs to be fun as well. Screen, desk, a very industrial setup will have to change.

We also have to rid ourselves of stereotypes like:

  • A 12 year old girl: level 70 night elf
  • A 70 year old couple: owning 8 neopets
  • An asian businessman: Puzzle Pirate.

There’s too much overlap throughout the industry to categorise. Think of the industry and it will get bigger, don’t focus on the little piece of the pie you cut out for yourself.

There are things we can do from a technology point of view to help secure the content of VW’s. We need to have a strong concept of idendity, it’s based on trust. We haven’t been able to solve open-ID for the internet, but maybe we can do so for virtual worlds.

A strong Identity can give you credit, a reputation, a trust that helps you sell, make your business, How do we manage our presence? Let people know we are busy etc.

  • Identity
  • Reputation
  • Presence

There are things we can't do as good as we can in RL, but there are things we can do better than in RL as well. Augmentation, specific content based upon who you're talking to.

The new math:

If it's just amongst us we can throw out every number we like. When talking to people outside we have to rationalise, come with metrics. Real facts and figures. The industry has to step forward and come with universal metrics. Business needs to know where the money is.

One of the good initiatives is MMI, the metaverse market index. (spin off from Metaversed's Grid Safari's and Metanomics sessions. This is a derisking and industry building initiative.

Common Platforms:

There's work going on on interoperability. Content is core, platform flexible. Convergence over divergence will benefit the industry.

MIT Collective Intelligence:

We've gotta look for pitfalls and not stick to the "we could this" suggestions, but also consider if "we should this" element. What can we do for collective intelligence. What can we do for collaboration, for culture? What can we instrument, do to overcome deficiencies in our options in Virtual Worlds?

Wrap up:

  • Common Identities
  • Common Denominators
  • Common Platforms
  • Common Understanding

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Reuben's Keynote

Reuben Steiger ,Millions of Us – The Avatar Age

Where are we, and how did we get here?

The avatar age is a way of categorising this industry as more than virtual worlds. VW sounds isolated and niche. It doesn’t do justice to everything that’s going on.

The most primal and basic sort of human togetherness is sitting round the campfire. Surprisingly it is one of the most popular events in virtual worlds as well.

What is an avatar?

In Hindu lore it was the earthly form of a god. Now it’s an online persona. It’s an inversion. In history it was from ethereal to prosaic, now it’s vice versa.

Houston, we have a problem!

Only 25% of US residents trust conventional advertising. Over 70% trust recommendations from their friends.

User generated social communities represent the fastest growing market segment, totaling 31% of all consumer internet usage. This is not a niche thing. This is where the market is trending.

Second Life has been on top of the virtual world market when it comes to press attention, yet it represents only a small minority of those millions of virtual residents.

  • Over the next year social networks will become avatarized
  • Virtual Worlds will become more like social networks
  • Television tie-ins will increase for virtual worlds.

Virtual worlds will evolve from a Habitat (1985) to a Second Life (now)

Where did it all begin?

Philo T. Farnsworth (1928) invented the television, just across the street from 1100 Sansome street (Linden Lab HQ).

What happened to communities? Before the automobile and television we lived in small villages, architecturally build on the community principle. Over the past decades we’ve lost that sense of community. The basic civic getting together has gone. Virtual Worlds are so important because they offer the opportunity to reestablish this togetherness.

How will this stuff manifest in the potential future? (again Scion City example)

SAND – episode on Scion City, a narrative where residents are invited to solve the mystery.

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Navigating Uncharted Terrain

One of yesterday's sessions was IBM's talk on Navigating Uncharted Terrain. Here's the announcement:

Wednesday, 11:00am - 12:00pm

Virtual Worlds: The BEST platforms for Enterprise Value
An Examination of Virtual World Platforms From the Enterprise Perspective.
The number of virtual worlds platforms are proliferating from publicly operated virtual worlds to private world engines. Where does an enterprise start when evaluating a platform based on BEST: Business, Economic Value, Social Interaction and Technology? This detailed session will review the leading platforms for enterprise use, talk about the real business value being realized in virtual worlds today and have a look into the future of virtual worlds fit for business.

Speaker: Sandy Kearney, IBM Global Director, IBM 3D Internet and Virtual Business

Here's my notes:

  • Like With the internet we've explored, done a lot of things that we don't want to repeat.

  • It's uncharted terrain with new tools to navigate

  • 3D internet is everywhere, anytime

  • It took IBM 10 years to understand the e-business. It took us 8 months to understand the value of v-business

  • IBM is currently engaged with over 400 clients in v-business.

  • There's an increasing market accelleration.

  • Market trends are guideposts for pioneers.

  • Orienting goals towards Business Value: BEST
    (Business, Economics, Social and Technology goals)

  • There's an enormous value in Enterprise and consumer social platforms: Recognition, interaction, social bonding and a sense of belonging in global enterprises.

  • The IBM Intraverse runs on an Active Worlds platform. A presentation of the intraverse was given at Cornell, and was live-streamed into Second Life to the Metanomics meeting.

  • We're going do see 4D very soon. Already there are people programming their avatars to do stuff when they're long gone. VW's are going temporal.

  • As a community we need to
    - realize business value (leverage the 3D capability)
    - sustain & protect value (ensure 3D internet is fit for business and community)
    - expand value (ensure interoperability, make vw's open and available, easy to use)

  • The desire to be plugged in is growing

  • A universal and generic approach makes VW's more open and available, mass marketable.

  • We're moving from the information age to the conceptual age.

  • Identity management is going to be a very very hot issue in VW's in the coming years.

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Santa Zuiker

Here's another Keynote tidbit. Anthony Zuiker went backstage and came out as Santa Zuiker throwing candybars at the audience.

According to Zuiker the Future is like Snickers:

  • It's delicious

  • It's a little nuts and it's

  • oh so sweet.

What he was referring to is how this candybar originated when two different companies started working together, a sort of early mashup of biscuit and chocolat producers.

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Sibley's Keynote

I already blogged a few things that came by during today's convention sessions, but here's some more on the Keynotes.

The convention kick-off was presented by Sibley Verbeck, CEO of the Electric Sheep Company. Now everybody was exited about this CSI thing, but Sibley also said a few other noteworthy things.

He started with an overview of the industry. Here's a few pointers:

  • Lots of Virtual Worlds focus on special agegroups

  • Teen worlds are currently the most successfull when it comes to business returns.

  • We're still early in the game, but there are already some breakthrough sucesses.

  • Teen worlds are going to see brutal competition in the next year and a half.

  • Because of this competition and success, teenworlds are the spots where the innovation will be.

  • One businessmodel comes to taking existing teen communities and communications and add virtual components and value.

  • Other models will be build around sponshorship and advertisement

  • I'm missing VW's that take all and incorporate profiling and stuff.

  • In adult spaces a lot of technology has been developed, yet it's lagging in innovation.

  • In 5 to 10 years from now there will be more e-commerce in Virtual Worlds than on the World Wide Web.

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More on CSI

Here's some more on the CSI gig which Electric Sheep is pulling. During the future of entertainment session I asked Sibley and Reuben if Machinima were now going mainstream, and if the grid was ready. Is Second Life capable of handling this mass media attention?

There's gonna be 16 million viewers. Not all have internet, not all have the needed hardware. Some will fall out due to long downloads, some will get losts with the introduction stuff. But there will be thousands of people logging into Second Life on the 24th.

This is an outstanding opportunity for the Electric Sheep Company to promote their new viewer (see Second Life Insider). Taken into account that your average SL sim is maxed out at 50 visitors, Sibley hinted at hundreds of sims being lined up to feed the masses. This hint may bear some truth and Linden Lab may be holding back capacity to blow out on the 24th. As it stands right now, the sim-auction center is completely empty, no Islands on sale at the moment.

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The future of entertainment

Heavily updated.

Wednesday, 2:30pm - 3:30pm session

Entertainment in Virtual Worlds - It's Not Games. it's Not TV. It's....

With the advent of virtual worlds television networks, individual channels and individual shows can now create interactive versions of their franchises and engage fans directly, immersing them into the environment. Find out how to successfully extend a television brand, including measuring audience participation and extending the advertising business model. Speakers will discuss activities on multiple virtual worlds platforms.

Panel (r2l):

  • Jerry Paffendorf - Wello Horld (Moderator)
  • Daniel Schiappa - Microsoft
  • Reuben Steiger – Millions of Us
  • Sibley Verbeck – ESC
  • Blake Lewin - Turner Broadcasting (CNN and all the rest)

It’s not games its…

Here are my notes on the panel discussion:

Sciappa: Microsoft involved in VW’s? Have been involved from a gaming environment for some time (like Halo 3) and are pretty aggressively looking at how they can partake in this new business.

Steiger: Most important word in the industry is storytelling and how do we do that in these worlds?

Sibley Verbeck on the question "what's your most exiting VW Experience: Jerry.... well, my most exciting experiences were all things I did with Jerry...

Lewin: Turner is very interested in VW’s. The concept of the virtual space is a living network that needs programming. Turner Broadcasting is looking into Kaneva to find media consumption habits.

Places online where people have faces and at the same time talk face to face with eachother.

Sciappa (again sidecommenting CSI):The internet for the most part still is a research tool. It doesn’t offer the incredible immersive, interactive experience VW’s do.

Sciappa:I’ve never watched CSI, but I’m sure I’m gonna watch the show on the 24th and go into Second Life to be part of the team, to participate and help solve the murder.

Like the Sheep, Millions of Us also have a project up and running with a televisionshow for which they build part of New York. (forgot the name of the show). It also involves gaming and other interactivity.

Are VW’s going mainstream in entertainment?

Lewin: People wanna be engaged in creating their own entertainment. It’s flipped the industry upside down. Kaneva save for us as it is more controlled. Turner has lots of great 3D modelers, they want High End things.

Sciappa:Virtual Earth is Microsofts most advanced endeavour in 3D outside a gaming environment. MS has lots of products that have scale. Scale is the issue, the key carrier needed for VW’s to go mainstream.

Steiger: We build Scion City. Went up and down as it goes, than we let people move in, that didn’t move the world either. Now we’re focusing on a narrative, set about 500 years in the future. It’s compelling, but it’s advertising as well.

Is the grid ready to go mainstream:

Verbeck: We’ll see.. keep our fingers crossed at the 24th.

Steiger: The features will follow the crowd, rather than the other way around

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

CSI hits Second Life.


Yesterday I shortly blogged on the new Electric Sheep Company project. Today the Second Life Insider blogged this to. The project involves a collaboration with CSI, the world's number one television show.

One of the keynote speakers of the Virtual World Conference was Anothony Zuiker, creator of CSI who told us more on the project. On october 24th CSI New York will submerge into Second Life, with Gary Senise chasing the murder suspect into Second Life. This airing will get Second Life into the homes of 16 million viewers.

This broadcast will get a follow up on february 6th 2008. It calls for action, you can join the CSI team and solve the crime. Zuiker sees virtual worlds as the next level of entertainment which will be cross platform in the future. "After 9/11 the world changed. Insecure teenagers started looking for communitieds and businesses started to think cross platform," he said. This cross platform operation started for CSI with viewer interaction by using cell-phones, now it will get multi-platform with Second Life stuff, inworld gaming and blogging. There will be a regular Murder of the Month blogpost by Anthony and you have to finish it.This will put on heavy strain on Second Life, calling for performance on the 24th. Let's wait and find out what the limit of concurrent log-ons will be.

Here a screenshot of the episode that will air on the 24th:

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Coffee with Linden

After a long touristy trip through San Fransico we (me and Ruud Latthrop) found out we'd accidentaly parked our car in exactly the best spot for the last part of our visit... just 2 blocks away from Linden Lab Headquarters.

Actually, this is their postal address. A few employees still work at this site, but most have already moved on to the new office building just down the road. This is the old warehouse where it started out being a small company.

We were a little late for our appointment and as LL is putting out a big update tomorrow, our inside man was quite pressed for time. Still we left with some good intel.

First of all is that the mono support will be up and running very soon now to provide more power to the people. Possibly C-Sharp support will come too. Another upcoming implementation is Havoc 4 to provide more stability. We've been promised to see a huge increase in stability in the coming months.

Stability and performance is also the keyword for an upcoming Electric Sheep television show which would recruit over 1 million new residents (target) in a few hours.

Well, that's about all I can share for now. Tomorrow will see the start of the VW conference and I'll be back with more tales from the metaverse.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

VeeJay @ San Jose Conference

Real Life has been very stressfull and very very busy this last month. Since there's Mrs. V and the Kids to keep in touch with I haven't really had time to dig into Second Life, let alone blog it.

Sorry folks.

The good news is, I'm getting back up to speed, starting with visiting the Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo next week in San Jose, California. I'm really looking forward to it, especially since I've got an appointment with a Linden Lab employee on tuesday.

On wednesday and thursday you'd probably be able to catch me on these tracks:

Wednesday (10th):

  • Business Strategy & Investment --Economics of Virtual Worlds
  • Entertainment, Media & Marketing -- ROI How the rules are changing
  • Entertainment, Media & Marketing -- Entertainment in Virtual Worlds - It's Not Games. it's Not TV. It's....
  • Virtual Worlds for the Enterprise -- Applications that Work

Thursday (11th):

  • Business Strategy & Investment -- The Future of VW's
  • Virtual Worlds for the Enterprise -- Best practises for employees in VW's
  • Virtual Worlds for the Enterprise -- Creating a user community
  • Business Strategy & Investment -- Finance in a VW

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