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29 Sep

Superstruct – alternative reality forecasting

Augmented Reality

Created by the Institute for the Future (such a cool name), Superstruct is a MMO-type alternative reality forecasting game. The real and virtual worlds are tied together, meshed together by a narrative and sequence of events. Orders and instructions are given online but players have to execute them in the real world.

The narrative and essence of Superstruct is a series of superthreats to the world in 2019 – global viruses, energy crisis, food shortages, those types of threats.

The Q&A’s neatly sum-up what’s going down here (which is what they should be doing anyway)….

A: Superstruct is the worlds first massively multiplayer forecasting game. By playing the game, youll help us chronicle the world of 2019–and imagine how we might solve the problems we’ll face. Because this is about more than just envisioning the future. Its about making the future, inventing new ways to organize the human race and augment our collective human potential.

Q: Why should I play Superstruct?

A: Here are some of our favorite reasons: Because
youre curious about the future, because you want to make friends and
collaborators all over the planet, because you want to learn how to become a
future forecaster, and because you want to change the world.

Q: Who can play Superstruct?

Everyone! The more players, the better the collective forecast.

Q: How do I play Superstruct?

A: Superstruct is played on forums, blogs, videos, wikis, and other familiar online spaces. We show you the world as it might look in 2019. You show us what its like to live there. Bring what you know and who you know, and well all figure out how to make 2019 a world we want to live in.

Q: Who is making Superstruct?

A: Superstruct is being developed by the Ten-Year Forecast team at the Institute for the Future, a not-for-profit think tank based in Palo Alto, California. Project leads include TYF director Kathi Vian, blogger and futurist Jamais Cascio, and game designer Jane McGonigal.

Q: When can I play Superstruct?

A: The game starts October 6, 2008, and it will last for six weeks. Top
Superstructure Honors will be given out by our celebrity game masters favorite
superstructures at the end of the game, on November 17.

Check it out.


Metabrand for auction on eBay


I’ve talked before about Phat Cats, the highly popular Jazz club in Second Life. It’s popularity highlights the role of music and socialising in virtual worlds as well as the importance and relevance of genre-based locations.

Well, Phat Cats is being put up for sale on Oct 1 on eBay by ownersJody Huet, Amethyst Jetaime, and Barbarella Noel. This will be very interesting to watch, in terms of putting a real world value on a metabrand. The last major eBay sale of a SL business/venue was Virtual Amsterdam and went for $50,000.

We have reached many of the professional and personal goals we held going into ownership, and we are moving to focus our attention on other projects. Phat Cats has always been a magical place, where Second Life residents can find a luxurious escape from the mundane pressures of daily life. The clubs hosts, hostesses, and managers work around the clock to create a warm and inviting environment where anyone can feel welcome. We cant wait to see that environment continue, even as ownership of the club changes hands.

Like most metabrands in SL, Phat Cats has a dedicated website, here.

Phat Cat’s Jazz Club Overview

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: auction life)

23 Sep

You must be having a graph

Virtual Research

It’s amazing what you can do with lines and circles.

I thought it would be interesting to go back since the launch of K Zero in December 2006 and see the volume and types of charts we’ve produced to explain and assess the virtual worlds sector.

Now of course, I need to create a graph to show the number of graphs published, as follows…

The Slideshare presentation below shows every graph and chart published on the K Zero blog.

Virtual world charts
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.
23 Sep

Linden Lab: Investor strategies and profitability

Virtual Research

Another thread from Robert Bloomfield’s interview with Philip Rosedale covered the investment side of things – interesting insight for operators who have recently embarked on their own virtual journeys. An extract is below (with the full piece here) and Christian Renaud’s thoughts over on the Technology Intelligence Group blog are just a click away here .

PHILIP ROSEDALE: for all the excitement around Second Life, this has been a company thats been well financed. Everythings been done in a simple straightforward way. Interests have been well aligned all the way along. In other words, all the investors have had a very similar view of what we were doing, what the longevity of the project was, what kind of metrics and outcomes we were looking for. You know, its been a pretty comfortable process. As a technology entrepreneur, actually I hadnt been on any other technology company boards in a startup sense. But I think the process weve gone through over the last… Well, we raised our first round of venture investment in March of 2001, and I think from then to now it has really been a pretty friendly environment. Weve had our ups and down, but…

Continue reading →

23 Sep

Philip Rosedale: Mainstreaming Virtual Worlds and Positioning Linden Lab

Virtual Research

Robert Bloomfield from Metanomics recently sat down with Philip Rosedale to chew the cud over several of the live issues facing both Linden Lab and the virtual worlds sector as a whole. Robert has asked me to comment on a specific extract from the interview relating to Mainstreaming Virtual Worlds and Positioning Linden Lab. Here’s the extract with my thoughts/comments in stages:


PR: By the way, I think the requirement for a software download, a standalone executable, which is true with every product thats out there right now other than the most simplistic like 2D virtual worlds, like Habbo Hotel or something like that, the requirement that you install and run a piece of standalone software, that requirement probably has a greater impact on the acquisition rate of new users than any other factor. And, unfortunately, until were bundled with the operating system in some way, its really hard.

When the browser came out, you had to download the browser. Ultimately it got bundled initially into Windows 95. No, Im sorry it wasnt even Windows 95. It would have been Windows 2000 that had it. IE came out when you first got a browser in the operating system. But the requirement for the browser was a hard requirement. You had to get a new five megabyte or so application onto your computer, and that slowed down the adoption. But there are these changes in technology that I think are required to create the kind of experience that is, like Steve Jobs said, good enough to criticize. And you got to download an application to do that, and that slows things down right now, and I think itll continue to slow things down for a while.

So, I think downloading clients as opposed to browser access does slow-down adoption of the early-majority group. But, what are the current alternatives at present? However, I would counter that by saying that innovator and early majority groups have less of an issue with client downloads and typically you need to go through the adoption curve in stages anyway in order to stimulate late comers. Other take on this is demand – if a really compelling virtual world product comes out and has a massive download then that’s the route you have to take.

Analogy: Does the really long flight to Australia from the UK mean fewer people are inclined to visit Oz? And/or, does the fact that its a long flight mean that people stay longer when they’re there?


PR: You know, theres an adoption cycle around graphics hardware. PC adoption cycles are pretty fast. It depends on what part of the world youre talking about, but theyre typically less than two years, a year to two years. And I think that were still waiting through laptops being powerful enough to really put you into an immersive graphical environment.

Again, you can argue that you dont need 3D graphics to create this kind of experience, but I actually think thats not true. I think that there is a fundamental need for the 3D environment because its the one that matches our mental framing of things so well and makes this all so both engaging and easy once youre in. So basically I think we still have to wait, particularly on laptops and lowend laptops, we have to wait probably a couple years more to be in that situation where you absolutely know that everybody, whatever laptop is in their backpack, itll run Second Life just fine.

And, again, I dont think theres a magic solution in that interim timeframe that says, Oh, well, we dont need 3D graphics, or, Heres a really neat way to do 3D graphics in the browser, or something like that. I tell you, those solutions that theyre just not going to work. Look at modern video games. You have to have the full power of the graphics hardware there, and I dont think theres a way around that, and I dont think well need to wait too long for that to happen.

I’m a big fan of 3D. I’m also a big fan of 2.5D. It’s basically horses for courses. As a aside, a lot of first time users of 2.5D virtual worlds just think/describe it as 3D anyway. The bottom line here is that an improvement in graphics cards will fundamentally make the experience better for users. I draw from a recent personal experience. I’ve just bought a 42″ HD TV specifically toutilizethe graphics from my PS3. I’m a lot happier because now with COD4 I can shoot people from a lot further away. ;)


PR:But I remember in the early days of the company, the rise of WiFi, which was actually a fascinating phenomenon to watch. In about 2001, it just really took off. It was problematic for me because it encouraged the use of laptops. And when I started the company in 99, it was based on the prediction that desktop computers would by, say, 2002 or 2003, which is when we formally launched, that they would have the graphics hardware that you needed to run Second Life. A fact which turned out to be true, but I didnt think about WiFi. You do your best as a futurist. But everybody started using these laptops, and many laptops still dont adequately run Second Life.

Continue reading →

23 Sep

Young and old drive gaming growth for females

A recent study released by comScore reveals some interesting trends in the online gaming sector. Specifically looking at females, growth by age band grew most in the 12-17 and 55-64 groups. Overall growth was up 27% year on year from August 2007, representing almost 43m visitors to gaming sites.

Virtual world platforms are included in this research. So, no real surprises in the younger (12-17) segment. There’s plenty going on here, as this Universe graph shows.

But what about the older (55-64) group? Perhaps this is a simple continued uplift in usage from Silver Surfers? And/or maybe in effect, the younger and older groups are actually linked in terms of usage, i.e. they’re playing together as Mother/Child or Grandmother/Child?

Continue reading →

19 Sep

The updated Radar graph for Q3 2008

Virtual Research

Today we’ve released the updated graphs showing virtual worlds by sector. Of course, there’s some overlap between sectors but it’s our best attempt to categorise worlds into groups. The usage policy is the same as for the Universe analysis.


Sectors: Socialising/chat, casual gaming and misc.


Continue reading →

18 Sep

The updated Universe graph for Q3 2008

Virtual Research

We’ve updated the Universe graph showing total registered accounts for the virtual worlds sector. New data included relates to Q3 2008. Due to the increase in VW’s in the last couple of months (both live and in development) the design of the Universe graph has been updated to allow more room. As usual, anyone requiring a high-res full version can request one here. These charts are always work in progress, updated as and when new data/worlds are available/launched.



Age range: 10 to 15



Age range: 15 to 25

Continue reading →

17 Sep

Evolving Business Models in MMOs

Strategic Marketing

An extract from a post published on – related to MMOs but nevertheless relevant to virtual worlds and this post about Premium Subscriptions.


* Jesse Mulligan, moderator

* Robert Ferrari, Turbine

* Hilmar Veigar Petursson, CCP (Eve Online)

* Nicolay Nickelsen, Funcom

* Min Kim, Nexon

Is it possible to have one business model for a game for both sides of the Pacific?
* Min: Its possible, but you need to tailor it for each market. You can do microtransactions in each market. But Korea has a PC cafe market which generates a lot of revenue and we dont have that in the West, so thats one big difference.
* Hilmar: Eve Online is centrally hosted, so our busines model needs to be adaptable within the same server. We need to build a vast array of options within game so people can choose what they are comfortable with.
Continue reading →
15 Sep

Lowering the Premium Subscription barrier

The majority of virtual worlds in the KT&T space rely on the premium subscription model. A straightforward enough concept – offer a basic experience of the platform for free and then incentivise members to ‘pay for more’. The operators generate their revenues from this transaction and obviously it’s a numbers game – push as many people through the doors as possible, knowing that a % will take the premium route.

The problem is, only a very small % actually take this route. Or rather, (for the younger aged worlds) only a very small % of the parents of the members take this route. This means it becomes even more of a numbers game, requiring in most cases hundreds of thousands of registered members to go through the upgrade gate and become premium subs.

Some simple numbers, assuming a 3% conversion rate of registered members becoming premium members (3% is generous by the way).

200,000 (registered) x 3% (conversion rate) = 6,000 premium subs.

6,000 premium subs x $5 (monthly price) = $30,000.

And don’t forget the $30,000 isn’t all margin as we need to take out processing/transaction costs for this. And, before we even get to staff costs and other opex we need to account for server and bandwidth costs.

So, taking the gloss off the exciting virtual worlds sector, there’s a hard reality out there – the premium subscription route is a difficult one. And it’s made even more difficult by the intensity of competition growing by the day as new worlds launch. So many choices for KT&T’s and it’s not even always a case of ‘where shall i spend my money’ – clearly in most cases money just doesn’t come into it as so many members never even consider upgrading to premium subscriptions.

Clearly this is a growing issue for virtual world operators.

So what can be done to lower the PremiumSubscriptionbarrier?

Continue reading →

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