Colorado University Rolls Out Doctorates in Social Media

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   Colorado Tech's beautiful virtual campus

Pixels and Policy was one of the first to touch on St. Paul College's plan to make virtual world studies into a degree program.

We predicted that colleges would begin adopting virtual worlds programs over the next few years. Turns out things are moving faster than we thought.

Now Colorado is in on the fun, becoming one of the first universities in America to offer a PhD in social media and virtual worlds. Pixels and Policy investigates just what it takes to become a Doctor of Facebook.

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Can Virtual Medical Consultations Expand and Improve Health Care?

For 44 million people, health care is a luxury beyond reach. No wonder, then, that health care reform is the topic du jure across the country this year.

As Washington politicians debate an expansive and expensive universal health care bill, many are looking for ways to bring the cost of health care within reach of those left behind. How many are looking at the ways virtual world technology is evolving to lower the cost of physician consultations and medical screening?

Pixels and Policy investigates.

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Free-to-Play Developers Drive Boom in Virtual Commerce

According to the industry news source GamesBeat – an offshoot of VentureBeat – cash transactions for virtual goods are booming, with pay-to-play MMORPG's like World of Warcraft surprisingly knocked out of first place by a surprise challenger.

Pixels and Policy explores the stats behind the claim, and why the biggest commercial growth isn't in the big-name worlds you might imagine.

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Do Virtual Worlds Offer Employment Hope for Africa’s Young Working Class?

A few months ago we reported on how East Africa's first reliable broadband Internet connection could revolutionize the employment landscape by allowing seamless virtual workspaces and long-distance employment.

Now popular newspaper Business Daily Africa reports on the benefits virtual worlds are bringing to the pan-African scene, and guess what – they include the myriad benefits virtual workplaces provide to a growing underemployed youth population!

Pixels and Policy takes a closer look.

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How Can Developers Combat Secondary Loot Markets?

Wow-gold-guide-300 The California Gold Rush of 1849 flooded the West with prospectors chasing dazzling riches.

It also created a boom market for general stores, taverns, brothels, and government where previously there had been only desert.

If the current boom in the profitability of virtual worlds is any indication, we may be seeing a Gold Rush for by 21st Century standards.

Pixels and Policy investigates how virtual goods dealers are growing rich supplying busy gamers with the rarest in-world items and weapons, and why this stands to change the future of gaming and commerce.

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Investment in the Virtual Goods Market Triples in Size Over 2008 Figures

We kicked off 2010 with our report on how the virtual goods market – the virtual farm seeds and dragon-slaying armor you buy with real currency – could hit $5 billion in just under five years. But how has the virtual goods market grown over the past year, and is it an indicator of future trends?

Pixels and Policy takes a look at how the market for swords, armor and Farmville equipment exploded over 2008 and 2009, and why 2010 looks great for the continued expansion of virtual commerce.

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Manual Labor in Virtual Worlds: How Fair Are In-Game Auction Houses?

One of the most frustrating times in an MMORPG player's digital life is "grinding" for experience to attain a game's highest levels. This often entails killing hundreds – if not thousands – of enemies over the course of days and weeks to obtain a small advance in the character's level and vital statistics.

But what happens when in-world auction houses like those in World of Warcraft, EVE Online and other games allow time-strapped players to contract out portions of quests to be completed by others in exchange for money?

Pixels and Policy looks at some interesting emerging research on the subject.

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South Korea’s Supreme Court Decriminalizes Real Money Transactions in Online Games

As many unlucky MMORPG players can attest, most subscription-based online games come down hard on players caught purchasing in-game currencies with real money. World of Warcraft bans players caught buying game gold, and and Everquest does much the same.

Now a new legal decision by South Korea's Supreme Court could be changing the balance of power decisively in favor of consumers.

Pixels and Policy investigates.

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Wants You to Punish Your Kids for Gaming

It's rare we find reporting on virtual worlds that is so backwards as to be almost comical. We attribute the declining trend of online gaming fear to increasing exposure to and understanding of both virtual worlds and their players. Heck, some schools are even using them to teach.

Then there's the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and their intrepid writer Peter McKay. Not only does Mr. McKay think virtual worlds are the pathway to destruction for one and all, but he urges parents to take all measures to keep kids as far from online gaming as possible.

Pixels and Policy descends into the murk.

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Guinness Markets Beer Through Create-Your-Own Virtual Worlds

Guinness Another innovative company is about to draw on the high-return potential of the virtual world: Famed brewing company Guinness bets it can sell you beer by engaging you in a virtual environment.

Guinness will be pioneering a fully integrated virtual worlds approach that draws on several open source and social networking tools. It looks like a winner.

Read on to find out what Guinness is brewing, and whether it'll satisfy virtual world veterans.

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