News, research and discussion on virtual goods, currencies and economies globally.

Cultural exchange: Western devs enter Japanese social gaming market - Japanese enter Facebook


The Japanese social gaming scene is dominated by three platforms: Mixi, Mobage-town and Gree. The great majority of people access these social networks via a mobile phone instead of a computer browser. It's a big market: according to David 'dc' Collier of Japanese social game developer Pikkle, it's just as big as the U.S. market: half the population, but twice the ARPU (David gave an excellent introduction to Japanese social games at GDC this year, covering everything from business models to game design). No wonder major social game developer PopCap's APAC bizdev Giordano Contestabile recently said on Twitter that he was "doubling down on social games in Japan. As are most other companies. Next 6 months will be a pitched battle. Expect fireworks"!   Read more

Wall Street Journal blogs about virtual economy research


I usually don't do self-serving posts about media appearances, but this one is good enough to point out: WSJ Blogs' Real Time Economics has an article titled Real Economist Learns From Virtual World. It's a decent story about the space MMO EVE Online published by CCP Games, and HIIT's virtual economy research collaboration with them. My boss Marko Turpeinen is interviewed.  Read more

AVEA virtual economy research project final report released

A seminar on virtual economy research is starting in a few minutes here in Helsinki. The seminar marks the conclusion of a 2.5-year virtual economy themed research project at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology. The purpose of this post is to disseminate the 119-page final report of the project. Here you go! (edit: summary version added) Excerpt from the report below.  Read more

Speaking at Virtual Goods Forum 2010


I will be giving a presentation on virtual goods business models, bitcoin era erfahhrungen on automated trading and how to describe them using academic business model frameworks at Virtual Goods Forum 2010 in London June 23th.

If you wish to meet, please drop me a line to the address found here.  Read more

13 Percent


Also posted at Terra Nova

According to Playspan, and reported by various outlets this week, 13% of internet users bought virtual goods last year, spending a little over $90 on average.  (If this is accurate, it matches the percentage of voters who claim membership in the Tea Party, the percentage of CEOs who drove hybrids in 2007, and the percentage of teenagers who eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.)  Estimated global revenues from sales = over $10B.

In related news, 44M game passwords were reportedly stolen, presumably with the hopes of supplying a bit of that 13 percent, multi-billion dollar market.

AVEA Seminar on Research in Virtual Economies





June 8, 2010
12:00 to 16:00
Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Seminar room
Helsinki, Finland

On Tuesday, 8 June 2010, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT is organising an open seminar on research in so-called virtual economies. Online gaming, virtual goods sales and the convergence of games and social networking sites are radically changing the operating environment for consumer facing online businesses. Understanding user behaviour and different business models as well as the ability to collect and analyse data are emerging as crucial success factors. This seminar will provide a scholarly perspective to these topics by presenting findings from AVEA, a Tekes funded research project. Please find the programme of the seminar below.  Read more

Quick Notes


Also posted at Terra Nova  Read more

Cosmetic Real Money Trading in World of Warcraft


Despite a staunch position against non-company-sanctioned real-money trading (RMT), or the exchange of “real” money for virtual goods and services, Blizzard Entertainment has recently introduced new features of World of Warcraft that have opened the door to the sale of the company’s own virtual goods. While currently focused on cosmetic elements of the game in a controlled and limited way, the development of Blizzard-sanctioned and governed RMT raises some questions and concerns about such practices as well as opening the door for further such activities in the future.  Read more

The ethics of social games and virtual goods: a bigger picture


ADOPT THE BABY SEAL! You can rescue a scared Baby Seal when it got lost while playing hide-and-seek! The Baby Seal is too young to survive on its own. (Happy Aquarium by CrowdStar)ADOPT THE BABY SEAL! You can rescue a scared Baby Seal when it got lost while playing hide-and-seek! The Baby Seal is too young to survive on its own. (Happy Aquarium by CrowdStar) A big theme at the Game Developers Conference this year was the rise of so-called social games: relatively open-ended games typically played on social networking sites such as Facebook, light on story and complicated game mechanics, but full of highly optimised feedback loops and virtual goods accumulation. A paradigmatic example is Zynga's FarmVille, which has attracted an incredible audience of 80 million players. The success of social games is forcing traditional developers to reconsider the way they approach game design and game business. But some game industry veterans are now raising concerns about the ethicality of the social game paradigm (Soren Johnson has a good summary, check out the comments, too). Much of the concern relates to the idea that social games "exploit psychological flaws in the human brain" to keep users engaged and paying for comparatively simple game content. Sour grapes or valid concerns? I'm withholding judgment, but the discussion prompted me to write a short essay that puts the current concerns in a bit of a historical context.  Read more

JVWR issue on virtual economies, goods and service delivery published


The Journal of Virtual Worlds Research has published its latest issue (volume 2, issue 4) titled Virtual Economies, Virtual Goods and Service Delivery in Virtual Worlds. Official announcement and list of articles below the fold.

In other news, slides from my presentation at the Game Developers Conference 2010 Social & Online Games Summit are now online: Why Do People Buy Virtual Goods? Ten Attributes That Influence Item Desirability. The room was packed and I hope the audience got what they wanted. Feedback welcome!  Read more