Sunday, April 1, 2007

Virtual World & Education

Have you ever wondered of the educational values of the Virtual Worlds?

Think math. Micheal Field, an enthusiatic parent, used the World of Warcraft (WoW) to teach his two children about money management by offering them an in-game allowance for their real world activities such as doing homework or other household chores. This parent plays the game with his children and earns game currency as he plays the game. During the course of game play, his children come across things they would like to have for their avatars such as pets or a new weapon. He doesn’t tell them how to spend their in-game allowance but reminds them that if they spend it they will not be getting any more money until their normal allowance date. Also when it comes to helping in household chorus these children get rewards for WoW in game currency for
helping out.

Next Well’'s Fargo bank had also tapped into area to educate young financial responsibility. In the digital environment of SecondLife, Visitors there can skydive, fly hovercrafts, dance and shop. What Well Fargo offerred were deposit services and where players can save money and it would them earn daily interest - '“The idea, though, is to teach the players to save money--they earn 10 percent per day on "deposits"--and to learn new things about money management through a series of quizzes that, when completed, reward players with $5 of new funds.”'

Adapted from MASSIVE MULTIPLAYER ONLINE GAMES AND THEIR VIRTUAL ECONOMIES by Gnume

Virtual World Terms

Have you ever encountered scenarios where people talk about virtual worlds and you don't understand a word they are saying. Look no further, here are some common terms you can learn:
Avatar - A representation of the player that is used to interact in the game environment through controllers or a combination of keyboard commands and a mouse-driven interface. Communication occurs through a typed chat interface as well as animated expressions or gestures.

Bot - a subset of Farmer. A bot refers to using an automated script or computer program to
perform certain functions over and over without the need to a human to actually control the avatar.

Camp - To remain in the same physical location in the game world for an extended period of
time. Typically, this refers to waiting for a special or rare NPC to appear.

Farmer - A player who camps the same spawn repeatedly and for hours on-end for the express purpose of obtaining some game currency or item, denying others the opportunity.

MMO - Massive Multiplayer Online game

NPC - Non-Player Character. These are characters or monsters within the game world that are controlled by the game.

Petition - A method to request in-game assistance from a customer service representative.

Player Character - This is the game character controlled by the person playing the game. See also Avatar.

Spawn - Appearing of NPCs or game resource in a location within the game.

Subscribers - Registered game players.

Adapted from MASSIVE MULTIPLAYER ONLINE GAMES AND THEIR VIRTUAL ECONOMIES by Gnume

Monday, March 26, 2007

Women & Online gaming

Based on a report from Mintel Online for online gaming, which by definition includes games downloaded from the Internet or played while online, there is a growing number of women playing online games, especially casual games.

Reports from Entertainment Software Association (ESA) show that women over the age of 18 represent 30% of the game-playing population, numbers significantly greater portion than boys from 6 to 17 at 23% in 2006.

Also the Ziff Davis’s Media Game Group found out that women comprise 63% of adult PC gamers. And through Simmons NCS Spring 2005, it was discovered that more women play online games (18% of female respondents age 18 and over had played a game online or downloaded a game to their PC in the last 30 days compared with 15% of male respondents).

According to the ESA, the average adult woman plays games 7.4 hours per week compared to 7.6 hours for adult males. Although males spend more time playing games than women, the gap has narrowed significantly. In 2003, males spent an average of 18 more minutes a day playing games; in 2004, they spent only 6 minutes more each day doing so. When it comes to online gaming, women lead. An AOL DMS Survey, presented in the IGDA’s Casual Game Whitepaper 2005, found that females spent 46% of their game playing time playing online games. Males spent 26% of their total game playing time playing online games. This holds true despite the limited marketing to female consumers by game publishers to date. There appears to be an opportunity to expand the market by creating games for, and targeting them to, female consumers.

Figure: Genres of games played online, by gender, October 2005 - “Which of the following types of games to you play online on your PC?”


All

Male

Female


%

%

%

Puzzle/strategy

60

52

67

Sports/racing

18

27

10

Action/adventure

30

36

24

Casino/gambling

32

34

29

Role playing

20

25

15

Card/board

57

54

60

Classic/arcade

43

41

45

Base: 1,068 adults aged 18 and older who
play games online on their PC at home/work

Source: Mintel/Greenfield Online

This report is a prove that the growing number of female players in the online gaming market has a huge potential and has not yet been fully tapped into. The shift in the online gaming paradigm means that game designs will be also shifting to appeal to the significant growing group and that we should see a decrease in gore and violence in new developments.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Growth of Gaming Industry


From "The Growth of the Computer and Video Game Industry" by Adam Bryzak:

An interesting correlation between the computer and video game industry against the movie and music industry brought up was brought up in this article. It was compared that sales figures of the games in 2005 amount to $7.0 billion, closing up the gap against the U.S. box office which was $8.99 billion and the recording industry’s sales at $12.3 billion.

Over the past 10 years, the gaming industry has evolved and growth so much that it is now a competitive entertainment medium against the traditional businesses. Through records, the gameing industry has also almost tripled dollar sales since 1996 however the recording industry has decreased sales since 1996 by more than $0.2 billion.

Is the gaming industry becoming a threat to the movie and music industry?

Most people wouldn't think so. I believe that all these industries are inseparable, movie inspire games, games need music, music inspires movies, so on and so forth. There is a huge number of connection between this industries and the gradual drop in the recording/ music industry was due to an equalization effect from the introduction of a new industry.

As long as people have the need to relax, there will always be a need for the entertainment industry and each being an individual will tend to differ in taste for the category of entertainment they would indulge in.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Who has the Rights?

This is an interesting arguement cited from

RIVALROUS CONSUMPTION AND THE BOUNDARIES OF COPYRIGHT LAW:
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LESSONS FROM ONLINE GAMES
by Andrew D. Schwarz, Robert Bullis


A section of this article questions the many gray areas game developers prey on to "preserve" gaming experience of their online virtual worlds/ games.

Principle of the first sale doctrine:
  • A copyright holder who sells to a wholesaler could not bind a downstream retailer to selling at a given price, even if the book itself explicitly included such a price-maintenance claim.
  • The purpose of the copyright laws was to prevent unauthorized copying of the work in question and to grant the sole right to sell the copies into the market, but "[t]o add to the right of exclusive sale the authority to control all future retail sales, by a notice that such sales must be made at a fixed sum, would give a right not included" in the copyright statute.
And so the classical example of Napster being sued for infringing music publishers' right to control the reproduction and distribution of their copyrighted materials clearly explains this law. Purchasing copyrighted content does not mean you own the content, it only means you licensed it and have the rights to use it. For this scenario, duplication of copyrighted content from one computer into the next allows someone else to use the content and redistribute it for free again and again outrightly violates the laws of copyrights.

Here comes the question, does this really apply to intellectual property (IP) in the online games? Virtual items sold in these games, do not work the same way. Once the virtual item is sold, the seller no longer has it and will have to commit to dedicate time to develop or look for this item again. Like passing on a physical item, no duplication is involved here unlike file-sharing in the case of Napster, the distributor still retains his/her copy of the original file.

Say a physical object example a book. The book can change hands and resold over and over again, what matters is that at each point in time only one person can have the given copy of the book. This makes it questionable for online game developers to say players infringe their IP should they sell an virtual item for cash and then there is also no way to justify the facts that giving these items away for free do not violate the law.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hype of MMO and non-game virtual worlds

Multiverse, maker of a free MMO-creation platform has plan to bring FireFly to life by turning The universe of Firefly into an virtual world environment.

FireFly the US science fiction TV series that was the Star Trek of 21st-century sci-fi fandom is one of the first TV series to be developed into a MMOG. Even the entertainment media industry is acknowledging the potential of MMOGs.

We see virtual worlds as an extraordinarily promising new entertainment medium." - Adam Kline, Fox Licensing's vice president of media enterprises

With that Multiverse was contracted to take this project off.



The potential of MMOGs is huge and according to sources some 7,000 development teams had registered for the Multiverse beta and more than 150 are making MMOs and non-game virtual worlds on a full-time basis.

Considering this being still an expanding industry, it is a significant number of developers and with that many people going into it, it can't be wrong that the virtual industry will be the next main economic driver of the world.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

An Inspiration: Changing the World Through Creative Entrepreneurship



From article about Kalev Leetaru.

“The spirit of creation is at the heart of entrepreneurship.”

Well said, these were inspirational words from the man, a renowned entrepreneur in the field of virtual reality.

From the article, Kalev started his entrepreneurial path in his 8th grade, writing a software which allowed users to develop their own web pages. And together with his father, launched Gamacles Software.

Entrepreneurship starting from young or at least when one undergoes education is the best way to practice the trade where one can practice to Perfection under "controlled" enviroments. In this way, it minimizes the risk of failing and increase the number of successes of startups run and managed by these people.

“the biggest hurdle for entrepreneurs in general, and student entrepreneurs in particular, is the business savvy to know how to bring an idea to market and find the resources to actually do so."

Business savvy is a taught process and goes best with education in technical/ professional knowledge. It stimulates one's mind to develop ideas and businesses around the their field of expertises therefore benefitting the industries and economies.

Entrepreneurship is not just a startup knowledge, it is knowledge that works for any field. To be an entrepreneur is to "create products/ services that are meaningful to people, that provide solutions to make their lives easier."

Only through creative thinking that the world is changed and solutions are derived. Without entrepreneurship, who knows what this world will be like.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Virtual currency replacement for Real Cold Hard Cash?

Virtual currencies will become a dominant global curreny. Not possible? These guys in China might be able to do it.

In view of this article from Asia Times online, Chinese government central bank is worried that the rise a popular virtual currency in China could affect the value of the yuan. "QQ" coins that what they call it issued by China's largest instant-messaging service provider, Tencent, mainly used for transaction of virtual items. However see the opportunity, many third party websites are expanding its use into other unintended areas.

"The QQ coin is challenging the status of the renminbi (yuan) as the only legitimate currency in China." - Public prosecutor Yang Tao, Asia Times Online

And it is believe that the Chinese central government would act to "limit the application of QQ coins" and assure that their use is restricted to the virtual world.

"QQ " coins can be easily purchased with a bank, telephone or "QQ" card at an official price of 1 yuan per coin. They were originally designed to pay for Tencent services such as electronic greeting cards, online games and anti-virus software. But with no law built around their usage, "QQ" coins found their way into other illicit services like online gambling and online sex chats.

So far, from the article "QQ" coins hasn't got any impact on the yuan. Nevertheless there is a huge potential of using the coins for real goods, but judging from the way Tencent would want to reduce financial risks, chances of it becoming a Virtual Bank of China are silm.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Virtual property banned on eBay

eBay is now delisting all auctions for 'virtual artifacts' from the site.

First reported on Slashdot, game currency, items, and accounts/characters are being actively delisted from eBay. However SecondLife was spared in from this delisting.

The rationale behind this ban was as Mr. Hani Durzy, speaking for eBay, explained due to the 'legal complexities' surrounding virtual property.

Mr Duzy pointed out:

"The seller must be the owner of the underlying intellectual property, or authorized to distribute it by the intellectual property owner."

"For the overall health of the marketplace" the company felt that the proper course of action, after considerable contemplation, was to ban the sale of these items outright.

There are a few conflicting points to bring out here:

First most if not all MMOGs encourage users to exchange virtual properties, do transactions within the game environments. Where's the legal complexity/ intellectural property rights issue here?

Second, some games encourage real money transactions (RMT), these games shouldn't be even considered in the ban.

Last, by banning virtual properties in eBay is just to shift the economy of transacting virtual properties to other independent sites like IGE. Virtual transactions will still continue to thrive.

To eBay, this would be a huge lost in revenue.

What is the Virtual Economy?

For many who do not know, the Virtual Economy is now a common term used to describe an economy of trading of virtual property revolving Massive Multiplayer Online Games.

So what's so special? They are just games, its not like it's your "bread and butter". Well, THINK AGAIN.

Back in late October 2005, an independent filmmaker from Miami, spent $100,000 purchasing a virtual space station in the game "Project Entropia." He became the first person in the history of online gaming to to spend so much money.

MMOGs are no longer just a leisure space, many players of the games are getting into the games for the financial benefits they bring. Transactions of virtual items involving real money is creating an economy of its own. Numbers involve are huge, it was estimated that total global transactions for 2006 amounted up to USD 2.09 billion.

This spur the creation of many games directed at transacting game currencies using Real Cold Cash. One good example would be SecondLife, where players are involved in creating virtual items and buying/ selling among themselves using Linden Dollars (L$). In order to get your Linden Dollars, you'll have to trade for it at the Lindex using US dollars.

Now who gonna say it's not a social impact?