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Around the Virtual World

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A weekly wrap up of interesting news about virtual worlds, virtual goods and other social media.





PlayStudios launches myVegas social casino games with MGM

Social casino game startups are the cliché of 2012. Everybody is either starting a new company in this hot market -- on the bet that the U.S. will allow online gambling sites again -- or spending a lot of money acquiring casino game startups. But PlayStudios believes it is different because it is a blend of Silicon Valley and Las Vegas. The company was founded by Andrew Pascal, a longtime Silicon Valley entrepreneur and former casino empire executive.

American Express launches FarmVille rewards card

American Express has created a card that rewards FarmVille users with virtual cash for their real-world purchases. Users of the hit social media game can begin signing up for the FarmVille card starting Tuesday. The card is part of American Express' prepaid Serve platform.

[Report] Marketing Goes Local

PwC, together with the Location Based Marketing Association (LBMA), has developed this white paper to educate the industry on location-based marketing and to provide a general overview for retailers, brands and their agents, mobile network operators, and service providers on the application of these services to drive customer engagement and brand awareness.

Gamification market to reach $2.8 billion in 2016

Gamification, the process of applying game mechanics to activities that aren't games, is rapidly becoming a big business, according to a new report by Wanda Meloni of M2 Research. She projects the market to reach $242 million in 2012 (more than double the 2011 total), and to climb to $2.8 billion in 2016.

Could Virtual Nanotransactions Solve the Mobile Payments Problem?

Very few people in the mobile industry will disagree that mobile payments are today's biggest challenge for developers. In the Apple universe, there is a strong solution to the problem: Apple simply requires users to register their credit cards before they can use any services. But this approach only works for a very small segment of high end users in the developed world.

Around the Virtual World

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A weekly wrap up of interesting news about virtual worlds, virtual goods and other social media.

Social network ad revenue to hit $10B

Non-U.S. markets would account for slightly more than half, or 51.9 percent, of the US$10 billion global ad revenue in 2013, the research firm said in report Wednesday. While revenue growth would be in the double digits in the United States, higher growth elsewhere meant that spending in non-U.S. markets would account for a slighter greater share each subsequent year, it explained.

Steve Jobs: Accidental video games visionary

Sure, Jobs had some history in the space. He took a job at Atari as a technician in the mid-'70s, but this was because he was looking for money to fund a spiritual retreat to India. Later, with the release of the Apple II in 1977 he helped usher in a golden age of video games by providing a platform for the explosion of creativity that came in the early '80s: Bubble Bobble, Beach Head, Boulder Dash, Choplifter, F-15 Strike Eagle, Hacker, Hardball!, Karateka, King's Quest, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, Leisure Suit Larry, Lode Runner, Might & Magic, The Oregon Trail, Raid Over Moscow, Skyfox, Ultima, Wizardry, Zork. So many games that so many of us remember fondly, and all of them made possible because of the Apple II and Jobs.

Supreme Court Dodges Video Game Fee Request

In a surprisingly precarious move, the U.S. Supreme Court took no action Monday on a request from the video game industry for 1.4 million dollars in attorneys' fees and expenses incurred fighting the unconstitutional violent video game ban law, originally passed in California. 

How will Facebook's newest changes affect gamification?

If you're at all interested in the world of social and casual games, and the gamification of social media, the stream of major and minor changes from Facebook over the past week or so has got to be top of mind. Besides the major F8 developer conference, which introduced Timeline and an updated version of Open Graph, we've also seen the introduction of Facebook subscriptions and an updated news feed in the past few weeks.

What the iPhone 4S Means for Mobile Gaming

Some of the best news is that the iPhone 4S is getting a power upgrade. The 4S is getting a dual-core 1GHz A5 processor with dual-core graphics. That means the 4S have comparable graphics to the iPad 2. Games are almost guaranteed to run smoother and faster on the new 4S, since it will be about 7 times faster than the old iPhone 4. However, gamers might not be able to enjoy the increased details due to the tiny screen size which stayed at 3.5".

Augmented Reality Meets Location-based Social Networking

A new app in this field is TagWhat. Part augmented reality-app and part social networking service, it lets people check and view locations along with additional random info like the place's history, the famous people who lived in it, anecdotes about the neighboring establishments, or any other information that can either be trivial, interesting, or extremely useful.


Around the Virtual World

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A weekly wrap up of interesting news about virtual worlds, virtual goods and other social media.

Video Game Targets 'Tea Party Zombies,' Fox News Personalities

A New York-based video game developer has set his virtual crosshairs on Republican and conservative political figures in a game called "Tea Party Zombies Must Die," which allows players to indiscriminately slaughter politicians like Michele Bachmann, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.

Red Robot Launches Life is Crime Game With Location-Based Play

There's got to be more to location-based mobile games than checking in. That was the thinking behind the game startup Red Robot Labs and its first game, Life of Crime. Life of Crime uses what Red Robot believes is going to be its critical asset: the R2 Gaming Network platform for making location games.

Can Gamification Help Solve the Online Anonymity Problem?

There's been a lot written recently about the issue of online anonymity, and in particular how Google believes that a "real names" policy is necessary so that the Google+ network maintains a certain tone and level of trust.

Amazon Gets Serious About Social Games, Calls Out for Developers

The Facebook gaming arena is about to welcome a new gladiator: Amazon. The household name of online retailers (and e-readers) is officially pulling out all the stops for its inevitable entrance into the space, openly and internally calling out for a team of designers and developers.

Most Bosses Monitor or Block Social-Network Use At Work

Viruses, loss of confidential data and fear of employees tooling around doing sweet FA on Twitter are the top reasons that employers give for putting the brakes on social media in the workplace. And it's stopping them benefiting from new collaborative technologies, says ClearSwift Research.

Social Gaming Startup Guerillapps Launches First Green-Theme Upcycling Game on Facebook

Guerillapps, a Manhattan-based social gaming startup, today announces the launch of Trash Tycoon, its first green-theme social game for Facebook. The game is now available for play and takes a unique approach to social gaming by incorporating awareness for environmental issues and sustainability. The first game to ever highlight the concept of upcycling, Trash Tycoon is an immersive, fun game that presents opportunities for real-world impact.

Your Virtual Cow Could Be Worth $0

Fans of SuperPoke! Pets were crushed recently when Google announced it was pulling the plug on the game. Google killed off all but one project from social app maker Slide, which it bought last year for around $200 million.


Around the Virtual World

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A weekly wrap up of interesting news about virtual worlds, virtual goods and other social media.

Judge Says Warrant Required for Cell Phone Location Data

In recent years, the courts have struggled to decide whether the government needs a warrant to access historical records about a cell phone user's location. Some courts have found that when users turn on their cell phones, they "voluntarily" transmit their location to their cell phone providers and thereby waive any expectation of privacy.

Social Media Could Render Covert Policing 'Impossible'

Facebook has proven to be one of the biggest dangers in keeping undercover police officers safe due to applications such as facial recognition and photo tagging, according to a adjunct professor at ANU and Charles Sturt University.

Building With Someone Else's Blocks: Going Open Source With Games

Giving players access to source code has been a part of gaming's history for years, from the earliest MUDs to Tim Sweeney's ZZT. As console gaming's proprietary hardware and its closely guarded development tools slowly squeezed PC play from its central place in the industry the idea of open source play declined.

Wirklich? Germany Declares Facebook 'Like' Button Illegal

The German government on Friday declared the Facebook "Like" button, which appears on countless websites accessible all over the world, in violation of the country's strict privacy rights -- and thus illegal.

U.K. Pulls Back From Threat to Control Social Networks

The British government stepped back from threats to shut down social networks during future disturbances and instead is seeking to work with the networks on how best to use them to help. A high-profile political meeting today between the government, police and the networks was described as "honest and refreshing" after police admitted they struggled to understand social media.

Al Qaeda In Azeroth? Terrorism Recruiting and Training in Virtual Worlds

In their pursuit of terrorists, government intelligence agencies leave no digital rock unturned: telephone calls, emails, text messages, blogs, news sites - they monitor them all. Sometimes, as with social networks like Facebook, the companies behind these services gladly hand over data to governments to assist in this hunt. Yet there is still one place where terrorists can go, one place where they can talk to each other openly without fear of being detected: online video games.

Around the Virtual World

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A weekly wrap up of interesting news about virtual worlds, virtual goods and other social media.

Groupon Files for $750 Million IPO

Groupon has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to go public in a $750 million IPO underwritten by Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs.

Pandora Raises IPO Size as High as $141.6 Million

According to Thursday's amendment, Pandora is now looking to sell 15,736,600 shares at a maximum offering price of between $7 and $9 per share. That means its IPO could be as big as $141.6 million.

Why YouTube Adopting Creative Commons Is a Big Deal

Making legal YouTube mashups just got a whole lot easier. The site's video editor is now allowing its users to remix existing YouTube videos without violating anyone's copyright. This is made possible by YouTube adopting Creative Commons licenses, offering users the chance to publish any video under the liberal CC-BY license.

Tenn. Passes Web Entertainment Theft Bill

State lawmakers in country music's capital have passed a groundbreaking measure that would make it a crime to use a friend's login -- even with permission -- to listen to songs or watch movies from services such as Netflix or Rhapsody.

Virtual Worlds: Immersive Training, Collaboration and Meetings

Are virtual worlds really viable environments for work? According to a survey by Unisfair, a global provider of virtual events and business environments, usage of virtual environments is growing for marketing, training and collaboration. Surveying 550 marketers nationwide, the study revealed that 60 percent of respondents plan to increase spending on virtual events and environments this year.

Army Names Top Builders of Virtual Worlds

The U.S. Army is looking for a few good worlds -- virtual worlds, that is. The Army Research Laboratory Simulation & Training Technology Center announced winners for its annual Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge in which contestants from around the globe compete to produce the best virtual solutions for training and other applications.

Mobile Phones Transform Consumer Payments and Retailing Both On and Offline

The mobile phone is catalyzing virtual currency and payment development across the globe, says Geraldine Mitchely, business development manager for mimoney, virtual currency powered by Standard Bank, which resides on the mobile phone.


Social Media for Nonprofits: Leveraging the Opportunities and Avoiding the Legal Pitfalls

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Many nonprofits are using social media to create awareness of their cause, raise funds, develop closer connections with existing constituents and engage with new ones.

On April 14, 2011, at The Kreeger Museum in Washington, DC, Jim Gatto delivered a compelling presentation on top social media legal issues targeted to nonprofits. His presentation explored examples of how nonprofits are using social media today, including a focus on virtual goods, virtual currencies and gamification and the associated legal issues. For a copy of his presentation, please click here.

You Can Disclose (and Know) Too Much - The Dark Side of Social Media

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There are a number of people out there who are warning us that there needs to be more awareness of how much information we're disclosing via social networks. Some of them, like the now-shuttered PleaseRobMe.com, were doing it intentionally. Others, like Facebook Breakup Notifier (FBN), do it by implication. FBN lets users pick certain friends whose relationship status they'd like to monitor. If one of those relationships changes, the user gets notified by e-mail. Every tweet, update, video and blog post is a micro-chapter of your public profile that anyone can access. Although the information that is created is for friends, family and colleagues, people seem to rely on the scale of the internet to keep them anonymous without realizing that the information they post is also available to people with less virtuous interests. According to a study reported in The Telegraph, 36% of users who responded to a survey do not limit access to their social media profiles.

The latest tool for would-be stalkers is the aptly-named "Creepy."  Its creator describes it as a 'geolocation information aggregator.' Creepy is an application for Linux or Windows -- with a Mac OS X port in the works -- that gathers public information on a selected individual via social networking services to map their travel patterns. Right now it only works through Twitter and Flickr, but it's already pretty impressive. Creepy uses the services' APIs to download every photo or tweet the target user has ever published, analyzing each for the user's location at the time.  Although Twitter's geolocation setting is optional, images shared via sites like Twitpic and Yfrog are usually taken using a smartphone - which, usually unbeknownst to the user, records the location information in the EXIF data of the image. Creepy finds these photos, downloads them, and extracts the location data.

The end result looks something like this:

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With a map icon appearing for each location listed. Given that people spend the majority of their time at work/school or at home, Creepy discloses a frequent Tweeter/cell phone camera user-Flickr poster's travel patterns.

According to the same article in The Telegraph, a survey of reformed burglars determined that 12% would use websites like Facebook and Twitter to find out when their potential victim is out of the house, and that was before they had the aid of something like Creepy.

According to the Creepy FAQ, "I don't think that the fact that your geolocation information can be gathered and aggregated is disturbing. The fact that you were publishing it in the first place, is, on the other hand. Just to be clear, the intention behind creating creepy was not to help stalkers or promote/endorse stalking. It was to show exactly how easy it is to aggregate geolocation information and make you think twice next time you opt-in for geolocation features in twitter, or hitting 'allow' in the 'this application wants to use your current location dialog on your iphone."

To quote Helen Popkin, "Honestly, the way some of you people behave online, it's like you've never had a stalker."

Restaurant, Food & Beverage Legal Briefing Series: Top Social Media Legal Issues

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Leveraging social media technologies and applications is critical to the success of any marketing campaign, consumer outreach program or research plan.

Social media tools can be used to shed light on your target market and consumer decision making process. These tools can also be used to engage in a two-way conversation with your consumers and allows customers to communicate your messaging on your behalf. Restaurants are ahead of the curve:  81% are currently using social media, compared with 60% in other industries. Companies in these industries cannot ignore the powerful impact of social media. Companies in this space also face a host of new legal risks and concerns from virtually all sides. The key to success is staying on top of these laws and emerging trends.

On March 22, 2011, Jim Gatto delivered an exciting webinar presentation on top social media legal issues targeted to the restaurant, food and beverage industries. For a copy of his presentation, please click RFB Legal Briefing Series.pdf.

Around the Virtual World

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A weekly wrap up of interesting news about virtual worlds, virtual goods and other social media.

Region's Gaming Business Reaching New Levels

The Mario Brothers might not hail from here, and the Beltway isn't home to Halo. But the Washington area's gaming industry is definitely growing.

Is the Future of Mobile Social Games Cross Platform Play? 

Recent headlines certainly suggest that mobile games will be developed for multiple mobile devices at once. OpenFeint creator Aurora Feint announced today that its mobile social network for games will soon support play across several mobile operating systems, VentureBeat reports. 

Zynga Raising $500 Million at $10 Billion Valuation 

The fast-growing social gaming company, Zynga is close to completing a funding round of $500 million, valuing the company at $10 billion, said multiple sources. The round includes big institutional investors Morgan Stanley, T. Rowe Price, Fidelity Investments, as well as a token investment from existing venture investor Kleiner Perkins, in order to establish the huge valuation.

What Brands Can Learn From Taco Bell's Social Media Lawsuit Defense

When it comes to high profile lawsuits, it's often been the plaintiff's use of social media that makes headlines and wins those ever-important battles in the Court of Public Opinion.

"Virtual Iraq" Helps Soldiers Overcome PTSD

A new study in The Journal of Traumatic Stress reveals the promise of virtual reality exposure therapy for soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. After just seven sessions, soldiers reported reductions in their post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and almost two thirds of the soldiers found the change to be reliable and meaningful.

Qualcomm Has High Hopes for Augmented Reality Gaming

Qualcomm is demonstrating a number of augmented-reality games for Android-based smartphones at Mobile World Congress. The games were developed using its AR SDK software development kit.

Virtual Reality is Worth Real Money in Healthcare

The market for products that rely on virtual reality (VR)--including robot-assisted surgery, medical data visualization, education and training, and rehabilitation and therapy--was worth $670 million in 2010, according to a Kalorama Information report.


Around the Virtual World

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A weekly wrap up of interesting news about virtual worlds, virtual goods and other social media.

Don't Buy and Sell Pokemon Data In Japan

Japan is going a bit copyright crazy of late. It's not cool to sell customized figures online, it's not cool to rent video games in love hotels, and now, it's apparently not cool to sell Pokémon save data.

Lessons of the NBC Agreement With Battlestar Galactica Fans

NBC / Universal has agreed to let Battlestar Galactica-themed roleplay sims continue in Second Life.   They too had been issued a cease and desist order through a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) order.  In their case, the order was arguably even more serious - filed against Linden Lab itself, resulting in the closure of several Battlestar-themed sims and even the confiscation of content..

Wannabe Cool Kids Aim to Game the Web's New Social Scorekeepers

Today, a new generation of VIPs is cultivating coolness through the world of social media. Here, ordinary folks can become "influential" overnight depending on the number and kinds of people who follow them on Twitter or comment on their Facebook pages.

Guitar Hero Video Game Series is Axed by Activision

Activision Blizzard, which makes the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft series, says it's ditching the franchise because "the popularity of music-themed video games has faded".

Social Gaming Market Value to Approach $4 Billion by 2015

The global social gaming market's value will grow by 166 percent from $1.5 billion in 2010 to almost $4 billion by 2015, according to a recent forecast by analyst firm Business Insights.

Visa Acquires Playspan

Pushing into the virtual goods space, payments giant Visa has acquired Playspan, which powers e-commerce for hundreds of online games and virtual worlds, for $190 million.

How Location-Based Services Changed Social Games in Asia

As social gaming on mobile devices continues to grow throughout 2010, so will the number of applications offering location-based services. But will 2011 be the year that location-based social games take off in the U.S?

Around the Virtual World

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A weekly wrap up of interesting news about virtual worlds, virtual goods and other social media.

On Microsoft and 'Contributory Cybersquatting'

A federal judge in Seattle on Wednesday issued an interesting decision concerning cybersquatting, the act of setting up sites with the intent of selling the domain names, or, more pertinently, setting up sites with URLs that are a typo or two away from those of popular sites.

Augmented Reality Ads on the Rise Around Europe

A growing number of European startups have taken to creating virtual experiences that double as commercials. But as this sector is rapidly expanding, challenges remain.

Augmented Hype? Mobile's Next Big Thing

Some executives in the mobile industry think AR will be huge. While revenues from AR alone amount to no more than a few tens of millions of dollars, that number is set to double annually to reach USD 350 million in 2014, according to New York-based ABI Research. The impact across the broader mobile and computer industry could be much bigger, convincing consumers to use their mobile devices even more than they already do.

Google to Launch Groupon Competitor

One of our sources has sent us a confidential fact sheet straight from the Googleplex about the company's new group buying service. "Google Offers is a new product to help potential customers and clientele find great deals in their area through a daily email," the fact sheet says.

U.S. Army Launches Social Media Handbook

The United States Army has officially announced the release of the 2011 Army Social Media Handbook, a document that's meant to offer social media guidance for soldiers, personnel and families alike.

Verizon Makes First Legal Challenge to FCC's New Net Neutrality Rules

Verizon has filed an appeal challenging the net neutrality rules that the FCC adopted last month, which aim to prevent Internet providers from blocking or slowing legal content.

Zynga Rolls Out RewardVille Virtual Currency Program

RewardVille, which went live in beta today, will "slowly roll out" to a small group of users in coming weeks. According to Zynga, the program works like this: Each time you play a participating Zynga game, you'll earn Zynga Points (zPoints) and increase your Zynga Level (zLevel). At every zLevel, you'll earn Zynga Coins (zCoins) to use on free, exclusive in-game items in RewardVille.


Around the Virtual World

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A weekly wrap up of interesting news about virtual worlds, virtual goods and other social media.

Why Groupon and Foursquare Should Mate

Each company has its flaws and strengths.  The beautiful thing is they both have strengths where each other lacks.  To say it simply:

Groupon has many businesses on board off the start and they give great deals for consumers.  But customers don't come back after they have used a Groupon.  Leaving businesses completely upset and losing money. Foursquare motivates people to come back to establishments for mayorships and badges but leaving consumers wanting more for their efforts.  Plus the lack of involvement from venues is hindering the process.

Venezuela and Ecuador Make Trade Using New virtual Currency

Ecuador sent Venezuela an initial shipment of crude palm oil under a new trade currency regime known as the Unified System for Regional Compensation, or Sucre, the Ecuadorian government said.

Social Gaming Market to Pass $1 Billion in 2011

The social gaming market is expected to pass $1 billion this year, thanks to a rising number of users and a projected increase in advertising, according to research group eMarketer.

Non-profits Ride Social Gaming Trend Too

It is not surprising non-profits are entering this space: social gaming is expected to become a billion dollar business this year, eMarketer estimates. Nearly 62 million US internet users, or 27% of the online audience, will play at least one game on a social network monthly this year, up from 53 million in 2010, it said. As these numbers increase, so will the money spent on virtual goods, lead-generation offers and advertising.

One to Watch: Caped Koala Studios

Caped Koala Studios has stormed into 2011, ready to launch what it believes will become the world's top online education and entertainment destination for kids. The firm has developed an online 3D virtual world called Pora Ora (www.poraora.com), which combines games, education and social networking. Pora Ora made its public debut in London on 12 January at BETT 2011, the UK's largest educational technology trade show.

Next Stop: OpenSim!

An emerging virtual world platform is the destination of droves of emigrant avatars, as a price hike and the shutdown of the teen-only grid have prompted an educator exodus away from Second Life.

Social Gaming Ads to Soar - But Virtual Goods Still Lead Revenue

With the still rising popularity of social media games like Zynga's Farmville and Mafia Wars, advertising is naturally beginning to follow. But at least for the next few years, despite a major growth spurt, ad dollars will continue to lag virtual goods when it comes to making money in the social gaming. "Understanding the popularity of social gaming is simple," said eMarketer senior analyst Paul Verna.

BrightKite Checks Out of Check-ins

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brightkite.pngBrightkite has announced that it is rolling out a new business model focusing on group text and abandoning its check-in model. According to the Brightkite blog posting, its new  Android application can be your "default text messaging app, handling ALL your messaging from one app, saving you money with free texting while giving you many more capabilities than regular texting." It goes on to state that this will include Groups, Photos, Location sharing and more.

As for the stated reason behind this pivot, Brightkite said:

These features were the defining element to our company 2 and 3 years ago, but we no longer believe they are sufficiently unique or defining to be our focus, so we are dropping them.

The changes are expected to start taking place December 17. It is offering users an option to back up old posts and check-ins by Dec 31.