Jan 062011

New World Notes calls our attention to Avatar Kinect, which basically brings graphical chat rooms to the XBox Live platform.

This is indeed a powerful development. The Kinect has been selling like hotcakes (8 million of them in sixty days), and as a result, there’s now a pretty substantial install base that could get into this.

It’s clear to see the potential for sales of virtual goods and the like; right now, they offer scenes in which you can conduct your chats, but over time, adding in the features to make those into virtual apartments is not at all hard to picture. Add in robust enough objects to buy and the ability to customize your space, and you start getting something that feels like, well, Metaplace.com or Second Life with voice chat and kinesthetic controls. But for now, it’s more like IMVU or Lively, probably, and we shall see how it goes.

One thing that is interesting is that Live is centered on avatars that are pseudonymous but strongly identifiable; there’s an intrinsic extant reputation system there that this system will effectively plug into and leverage. This may reduce the amount of prurient chatrooms and the like (which something like the Kinect surely invites!). It is also telling how little the video centers on technology and how much it centers on women.

Given the connectivity, I cannot help but ponder why avatars as an intermediating technology, rather than video chat.

  • Avatars intermediate; this lets you put all participants in one environment, rather than stitching together disparate couches and living rooms
  • There may well be plans to leverage the pseudonymity into synchronous social game experiences
  • The avatars do allow for a more radical expression of personality that video would, essentially making for a richer profile; I can’t have my weird pet from Limbo cavorting around me in a video call, but I could here.

All in all, an interesting development; I look forward to trying it out.

Virtual goods keep growing…

 Posted by (Visited 5782 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Oct 142009

Sort of an addendum to the previous two posts.

Thanks to the astonishing growth of games on social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, the U.S. virtual goods market is poised to clear $1 billion in revenues in 2009, up more than 50 percent from a year earlier, according to a new report.By 2010, revenues could hit $1.6 billion as users become more comfortable paying for virtual goods in small transactions that are executed in a seamless fashion.

via Virtual goods sales to hit $1 billion in 2009 as social games pay off big | VentureBeat.

Meanwhile, CNet reports that China’s online game market grew almost 40% in Q2 of 2009, reaching over $900m. The bulk of the revenues go to three companies: Tencent, Shanda, and NetEase, which together have over 50% of the market.

The Guardian on virtual currency

 Posted by (Visited 4618 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Oct 142009

Over time, many technologies pioneered or elaborated in games and virtual worlds have become core parts of the web. Reputation systems. User profiles that track achievements and cumulative past experience. Avatars themselves, now degraded in common parlance all the way down to profile pictures. And now the idea of virtual coins is hot again, after some failed attempts in the 90s boom to make virtual currenct standards for e-commerce. The Guardian has a nice article on it:

Startups such as Jambool and Spare Change have launched virtual currencies that are interoperable across a range of games, applications and social networks, but Twofish’s Rutherford believes only a company of Facebook’s size can deliver the “brand promise” that would give a universal currency widespread appeal. Hale thinks that eventually there will be “a few dominant virtual currencies that by dint of their size become exchange currencies, just as the US dollar is to the global economy today”.

— Are online currencies finally striking gold? | Technology | The Guardian

Are we actually on track for something like this? Well, it’s not crazy. I think a bigger question is whether governments will allow or discourage it from happening — China already cracked down on QQ coins, as I recall.

XBLA marches on with avatars

 Posted by (Visited 4184 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Jul 172009

Are you ready to pay $2 for a new jacket for your Xbox 360 avatar? It’s coming this fall… and there will be more than just clothing, it seems:

The range of virtual goods Microsoft is rolling out for avatars includes branded apparel, animated items called props, and items only earned by playing specific games called “awardables.”

— Virtual Goods News: Microsoft To Launch Avatar Marketplace This Fall.

Is virtual item gifting far behind?

Chinese jail for virtual currency extortion

 Posted by (Visited 6495 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Jun 092009

So this gang of bullies strongarms a guy in an Internet cafe in China, and extorts a bunch of virtual goods and a pile of QQ coins from him. He gets caught, and the court rules that since the virtual goods were purchased, this was a valid case of extortion. Thee of the gang got fines, and the ringleader — three years in jail!

According to the Xinhua news agency, the man, along with three others, assaulted another man in the cafe, forcing him to give up various virtual goods and 100,000 yuan ($14,700) worth of the virtual currency known as QQ coins. The coins are the currency utilized by the major Chinese web portal, Tencent. It is used for the purchase of online goods and premium services for supported titles.

— Virtual Currency Extortion Leads to Three Years of Prison in China.

It isn’t too surprising that this sort of thing is getting taken seriously there; industry experts in China assess the virtual goods market there as being 25 times the size of the US market. (You can download an interesting report on this here, or just check out this slide show).