Could Standardizing Virtual Worlds Turn Off Consumers?

3059934552_c9b5be27d9 One of the major impediments to widespread use of virtual worlds is standardization. What virtual worlds need for mainstream success, the theory goes, is unification across platforms.

One article argues that this means the ability to carry one avatar between worlds.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at why consumers may not stomach the shift.

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Are Virtual Worlds Turning Pre-Teens into Informed Consumers?

One of the best indicators of virtual worlds' long-term commercial sustainability is the ability of a world to turn users into active consumers. Radio did this by monetizing broadcasts through advertisements. Television does much the same through product placement and celebrity endorsement. But these are both decidedly passive forms of marketing.

Some interesting new research from the marketing website Mad.uk sheds light on just how effectively virtual worlds are transmogrifying entertainment-seekers into potential customers. Pixels and Policy takes a look at how pre-teens in virtual worlds are slowly headed towards consumer consciousness.

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Study Shows Virtual Therapy Outperforms Real-World Shrinks

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Could virtual worlds be used to provide therapy to those who lack access to a real-world practitioner?

That's the premise of a recent article outlining the multiple ways virtual worlds could provide essential mental health services to more patients than ever before. But what about the possible caveats of virtual head-games?

Pixels and Policy takes a look at the compelling academic studies of just how effective virtual world psychotherapy really is. 

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Medical Update: Researchers Use Audible Virtual Worlds To Give Sight to the Blind

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Tel Aviv University's tactile sensor

Virtual worlds may help educate impoverished children, and they might even be bringing a new wave of commerce to the world. But can virtual worlds change individual lives?

According to some research published in the venerable Science Daily, they just might.

You see, some enterprising Israeli researchers are developing the most innovative assistance for the blind since Braille.

Pixels and Policy investigates how virtual worlds are giving eyes to the blind, and why you can run the program on your old Apple II.

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The Risky Legal Waters of RMT in Social Media Games: A Zynga Case Study

Pixels and Policy previously reported on the potential risks of building an online gaming platform around the concept of real money transactions, or RMT's. Customers have proven willing to shell out large sums of money for virtual goods in the form of microtransactions, the $1 – $5 purchases common to games on Facebook and MySpace. So what's the problem?

There's an emerging legal question regarding RMT, and it centers on the growing partnership between online game developers and marketing agencies. What happens when a developer offers "free credits" for filling out "trial" offers? As social gaming titan Zynga found out, offering another venue for RMT is proving far more complicated than planned.

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Why So Many Organizations Struggle for Success in Virtual Worlds

Palomar_002-712712One of the most interesting and
controversial discussions currently taking place amongst the virtual
world cognoscenti is also one of the most vexing for the companies and
government agencies hoping to capitalize on the growing communication
power of virtual worlds.

Despite the best efforts of
developers like Cisco, the Department of Energy and a mix of other
public and private organizations, many more corporate/government Second
Life installations fail than survive and thrive.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at why.

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How the Intelligence Community Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Virtual Worlds

DNI-seal_small Social media and virtual worlds have nabbed headlines as potential game-changers in every field from business to political discourse, and most of that praise is well-deserved. But there is one community of experts consistently skeptical of the utility of virtual worlds.

Can recent improvements in the privacy and information security of virtual worlds win over the government intelligence community? According to some recent reporting by The Economist and Security Director News, even covert agents are warming to the potential communication power of firewalled worlds.

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Companies Consider Virtual Employee Standards of Conduct

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Scantily-clad waitresses may move burgers and wings at Hooters, but companies like IBM are less than pleased to find employees involved in virtual worlds dressing in bondage gear and digital phalluses.

A recent press release from industry research firm Gartner, Inc. sheds some light on the obvious reasons why big business might not want its employees' virtual representations dancing around in a Department of Energy-themed ballgag:

As the use of virtual environments for business purposes grows, enterprises need to understand how employees are using avatars in ways that might affect the enterprise or the enterprise’s reputation

We covered the possible professional conflicts of real-world workers indulging in virtual fantasy last week. In light of the Gartner report, this controversial issue deserves a closer look.

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Virtual Voices: Why Americans Need Online Voting

Pict_20090210PHT48991We’ve talked about how campaigns are changing to accommodate
both
a virtual presence
in games like Second Life and a real-world campaign
office.

We’ve talked about how government is increasingly involving itself in
virtual worlds as cheap, effective means of spreading information.

But what about the voter? When does the ballot box move online? Pixels and Policy explores the technological problems and hard work needed to bring online voting to America.

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Developers Should Open Virtual Goods Markets

Gamestop-sign We recently wrote that developers were fighting a failing battle by trying to restrict secondary virtual goods markets through tools such as account banning and eliminating in-game trade.

Now an article published by the CIOL Network seems to agree: Fighting the market in in-game goods will not only ruin the experience for honest players, it won't work.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at what CIOL recommends, and whether or not their recommendation could soon come true.

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