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

Virtual asset sales

Habbo introduces a dual currency virtual economy model (updated with pictures)

Bubbles, a "rental"Bubbles, a “rental”Sulka Haro, Lead Concept Designer of Habbo, informs us that Sulake is introducing a dual currency virtual economy model for Habbo:

As of today, Habbo is a dual currency economy. Credits are bought and used to purchase persistent value, and you can earn Pixels by doing Achievements and just hanging around online. We’re piloting the change in UK, and if it’s working fine, the other countries will get it at some point in the future (as usual).

More details and screenshots below.  Read more

Well That Was Quick

Google Lively

So in 2009, Google Lively will be Google Dead-As-A-Doornaily

We never got too excited about Lively’s current form around here.  I was always confused about how it aligned with Google’s core business. Still it’s too bad to see the big G moving out of this space and admitting defeat. More news via Google.  A brief post-mortem after the fold.  Read more

New peer-reviewed papers on commerce and consumption in virtual worlds

Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, an online journal that started this year, has just published its second number, titled Consumer Behavior in Virtual Worlds. Also, the Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, a more established online publication, has published a special issue on virtual worlds. Most of the articles from these two publications fall into the familiar group of Second Life -based qualitative studies and essays. There are also a couple of surveys. Below, I briefly introduce four of the papers that touch on VERN’s topic areas.  Read more

Sellers’ liability? Nexon to buy back virtual items in a game due for shutdown

According to Korea Times, MMO publisher Nexon "is preparing to repay users who own paid items" in ZerA, an unsuccessful Korean MMO that is due to be closed in January. The game was launched in 2006 and peaked at 40 000 concurrent users. According to Korea Times, ZerA took three years and 10 billion won (approx. 7.5 M USD) to develop. Plans to launch in Japan were dropped after lukewarm reception in Korea.  Read more

Three Rings launches Whirled

We rarely blog about new games and services, but I will make an exception since Whirled by Three Rings seems to be an intriguing concept, design and research -wise.   Read more

"Whirled is an in-browser virtual world that is open to player creations and customizations; anything can be uploaded to the Whirled, from simple image furniture to mini-MMO games. Sophisticated avatars, pets, toys and games are coded to Whirled’s Flash ActionScript APIs, which support multi-player games with arbitrary numbers of players driven by client or server-side code."

Mindtrek ’08 & Revenue model innovation in Chinese online game market

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Reporting in from Tampere, Finland. I am here at Mindtrek, or should I say, I am ON a Mindtrek. Mindtrek is an annual mediaweek with variety of events and competitions for new innovations and products. Since last year they have also had an academic conference beside all the other wide ranging activities. I also participated in Mindtrek in 2000, which was on the primetime of the dot-com bubble. This year the themes are ranging from games to social media and to ubiquitous computing. Anyway, today I’m here in my original hometown taking part to the academic track on games.

This track consists of three main themes: 1) creativity engagement and algorithms in games 2) games in education, learning and health care, and 3) policies in game industry. All of these are intriguing topics, but what I’m especially interested in is the final presentation/paper about "Revenue Model Innovation in the Chinese Online Market" by Jessie Qun Ren and Philip Hardwick.

Reading Room: “Transactions of Virtual Items in Virtual Worlds” by Michael Passman

This edition of Virtually Blind’s Reading Room features an article addressing legal issues associated with transactions of virtual items in virtual worlds. The article, Transactions of Virtual Items in Virtual Worlds (.pdf), by Michael Passman, is available here courtesy of the author and the Albany Law Journal of Science & Technology. Passman is a recent law school graduate who works at Cassiday Schade LLP in Chicago.   Read more

Transactions of Virtual Items in Virtual Worlds raises some interesting questions, including key inquiries into the nature of virtual goods. Passman argues that “transactions in virtual items are not sales of goods, but, rather, licenses of intellectual property.” His theory is based partly on an analysis of the virtual items themselves, and partly on user expectation, as derived from interviews with Second Life users. From Passman’s article:

Legitimizing virtual consumption

A Japanese lunch box imitating a virtual mushroom

Greg Lastowka over at Terra Nova writes about the way Sulake limits the amount of money users can spend on virtual goods in Habbo. I’ve written a little bit about the topic in a paper that has been in review for a long time. Basically what interests me in it as a researcher of consumption is how a certain type of spending is legitimized and becomes socially acceptable. Lots of products from jazz music to microwave meals were initially “improper” consumption, not something a respectable person would buy. Gradually, in a process were advertising played no small part, people accepted those goods and started to consume them. At the same time, they left behind some of their earlier ways of consumption.  Read more

Virtual worlds don’t exist

A world I’m writing this at Breaking the Magic Circle, a seminar at the Game Research Lab at University of Tampere, Finland. Overall, it’s been an interesting seminar. As is typical of game studies gatherings, we’ve heard a mixed bag of presentations on diverse topics and from distinct angles. This can be both stimulating and frustrating at the same time.

My own contribution was a working paper titled Virtual Worlds Don’t Exist. I got some useful feedback, for which I am thankful. Feel free to drop your own feedback either as a comment on this blog or via email. I’ll paste the abstract below. Updated: you can find my presentation slides here.  Read more

MMORPGs and the item payment revenue model at DiGRA 2007

DiGRA Japan logo Digital Game Research Association DiGRA is the main global organisation for ludologists and other scholars studying digital games. Last September I attended the DiGRA 2007: Situated Play conference in Tokyo. It was a surprisingly large and well-organised conference, and featured over a hundred paper presentations on a very diverse set of topics, including some related to virtual economies.  Read more