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The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

April 13, 2009

1. CNET (USA) – Second Life strives for a second wind. “After it made headlines last week for yet another executive leaving the company, you’d really think things couldn’t get much worse for virtual world Second Life and its parent company Linden Lab. The marketing hype–it’s the next Internet!–bottomed out long ago. There was a wave of unflattering press, from virtual terrorism to technical problems to banking scandals. Even the NBC sitcom “The Office” jumped on board, lambasting Second Life with an episode in which Dwight Schrute, the show’s archetypal “creepy nerd,” professed his addiction.
“I signed up for Second Life about a year ago,” Schrute, played by actor Rainn Wilson, explained with his usual dweeby pomposity. “Back then, my life was so great that I literally wanted a second one.”

2. Network World (USA) – Inside the Smithsonian Institution’s first “virtual museum”. “Many education organizations would love to have their own museums. Of course, the big reason that a lot of them don’t is because it costs a lot of money to own a building large enough to display their exhibits. The Smithsonian Latino Center, a branch of the Smithsonian educational and research institution, has solved this problem by taking its museum online with the help of Ohio University’s Virtual Immersive Technologies and Arts for Learning (VITAL)Lab. The new Latino Virtual Museum which can be accessed through virtual reality platform Second Life, consists of hundreds of different exhibits that have been scanned in as three-dimensional digital replicas for users to explore. Types of exhibits include galleries of Latino paintings, video clips detailing Latino history, a room filled with virtual Caribbean instruments and even a disco club where users’ avatars can learn to dance to meringue music.”

3. Crispy Gamer (USA) – Freaky Creatures Goes Live. “Abandon Interactive Entertainment’s Freaky Creatures is ready for prime time. The massively multiplayer online game that purports to combine the best of online multiplayer gaming, collectible action figures, virtual worlds and social networking is available on PC, MAC and mobile.”

4. Mobile Phones (UK) – How Playstation games will end up on mobiles. “An entirely new way of running gaming services has emerged from one of the inventors of the Apple Mac, and it could mean that super powerful games could soon be played on your mobile handset. The idea is obvious but fraught with technical difficulties – don’t run the game on your remote PC, laptop or handset – run it on a central server and just show a streaming video representation on your portable device and use the broadband nework for your controls. So far the company, OnLive, which has just put its gaming system onto Beta test among US users, is only targeting low powered PCs, laptops and Macs, but will almost certainly begin targeting Wi-Fi attached handsets later such as the iPhone. Imagine playing Halo 2 or Doom on something as small as a touch screen phone or these new tiny Netbooks, which cellular operators are increasingly looking to offer.”

5. Virtual Worlds News – Sulake Bringing Bobba To Mobiles. “Earlier today Sulake soft launched what could potentially be the Habbo-killer for teen virtual worlds. Bobba is a new, 3D virtual world, now in beta, for mobile users. Currently Bobba is only available on the Nokia S60, but the website lists iPhone and iPod touch versions as “coming soon.” If they come soon enough, Sulake could beat out Genkii’s upcoming Sparkle for the title of first 3D virtual world on the iPhone.”

6. CNN – Artists visit virtual Second Life for real-world cash. “It’s 9 a.m. when Cylindrian Rutabaga takes the microphone at a familiar bar. The funny-named musician with crinkled red hair, a white blouse and flowing skirt picks up her custom-made guitar and looks across the audience with a blank stare. Her fans already are rocking out: Some breakdance on the bar’s tile floor. Others flail about with the vigor of ’70s disco dancers. One man with a towering afro and 3-D glasses looks like he’s swimming the backstroke to some nonexistent beat. The randomness of the scene doesn’t seem to faze Cylindrian. She isn’t shocked even when hordes of other fans — including one man who wears a kilt and is followed by a small herd of sheep — start teleporting into the room.”

7. Macau Daily Times (China) – Second Life finding new life. “Linden Lab chief executive Mark Kingdon shakes his head when he sees news stories heralding the demise of former Internet darling Second Life. Reporters that rushed into Second Life to cover cyber-events and portrayed the online fantasy realm a science fiction future come true have been pulling up stakes and tearing down the community they had embraced. Well-known Silicon Valley gossip website Vallywag even started a death watch for Second Life. “You read those stories; as CEO I have to shake my head,” said Mark Kingdon, who last year ago took over for founder Philip Rosedale as chief executive of San Francisco-based Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life. “The reality is that Second Life continues to grow; every second someone joins. Second Life is hopping.” The number of “active users” at Second Life has grown 25 percent since September of last year, while the amount of time and money spent in the virtual world has climbed by similar percentages, according to Kingdon.”

8. The Business Insider (USA) – Second Life’s Second Act: Business Teleconferencing? “Another high-profile exit from Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life: VP for Biz Dev Gene Yoon (a/k/a the avatar “Ginsu Linden”) is leaving the company. Gene’s departure follows the exit of John Zdanowski, Second Life’s CFO, less than two weeks ago. There’s been a lot of turnover at Linden. The core executive team that gave birth to Second Life, witnessed its meteoric rise, and endured some of the backlash are now mostly gone.”

9. Massively (USA) – Infringers of Dune: Dune role-players shut down by Herbert Estate. Spice keeps flowing. “Among the various business, educational and social uses to which Second Life is put, Role-Playing gamers have quite a number of thriving communities. If you want to role-play in the world of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, or Straczynski’s Babylon 5, Lucas’ Star Wars universe(s), Tolkien’s Middle Earth, John Norman’s Gor, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Roddenberry’s Star Trek, or the settings of Doctor Who, Torchwood, Battlestar Galactica, Harry Potter, Final Fantasy VII or CCP/White Wolf’s World of Darkness, Second Life is home to all of these and more.”

10. Washington Post (USA) – At Least Retailers Are Upbeat About The Virtual Economy. “More proof that the virtual goods business continues to do well: Linden Lab is forecasting that users will conduct about $450 million dollars worth of virtual transactions in Second Life this year, up 28 percent from 2008. The company also surveyed more than 2,600 of its virtual business owners, including landlords, event promoters and retailers, and found that they’re quite optimistic about the state of the virtual economy: 64 percent reported that they generate positive net income from the products/services they sell. 52 percent said they generated up to 20 percent of their total income from Second Life. 61 percent were optimistic that their revenues will grow this year, with 19 percent saying they were “very optimistic”. 31 percent planned to invest slightly or significantly more in their virtual business over the next six months.”

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