Virtual Currencies: The Rise of a Not-So-Virtual Monetary Unit

From FarmVille Dollars to the Evony Cent,
nearly every virtual world, multiplayer game and online environment
seems to be adopting synthetic currencies – the little tokens we
happily give our real money to acquire.

Virtual
currencies each have their own exchange rate, from L$250 to $1 in
Second Life to 50 Evony Cents for $5 and everywhere in between. But
once successful virtual currency company now claims the success of a
virtual currency has little to do with its price.

Continue reading Virtual Currencies: The Rise of a Not-So-Virtual Monetary Unit

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.

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

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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What Does the Closure of Metaplace Mean for Social Gaming Worlds?

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We'll be the first to admit that sometimes Pixels and Policy gets it wrong, but this one leaves us with some especially foul egg on our faces.

Less than a day after our article outlining how browser worlds like Metaplace have vast growth potential, Metaplace announced it plans to shutter its virtual doors on January 1, 2010.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at what the closure of Metaplace means for the wider genre of free-to-use, browser-based virtual worlds.

Continue reading What Does the Closure of Metaplace Mean for Social Gaming Worlds?

Our Most Shared Posts From Last Week

Last week was a great one for Pixels and Policy. Some of our articles found their way onto other websites and even into a press release! Now we're sharing our top five most networked articles from last week!

1. Media Hype Could Permanently Damage Augmented Reality

Excessive hype could end up hurting augmented reality's development. Instead of refining and optimizing augmented reality, developers may rush out subpar, buggy products to meet spiking public interest in the complicated technology. That would be a shame, as augmented reality could be a truly revoltionary technology.

2. Unattractive Avatars Promote Negative Self Images


According to the University of Texas study, an ugly avatar might result not only in social isolation in-world, but the unattractive appearance of a player's avatar could bleed over into the player's perception of themselves.


3. Zynga's Virtual Currency System Comes Under Heavy Fire

Investigative blog Techdirt and Mike Arrington of TechCrunch took Zynga to task for drawing a huge revenue stream from what they argued are questionable contracts, intensive marketing to children, and developer-created scarcity.

4. New York Educators Discuss Virtual Worlds as Teaching Tools

New York's 2009 Technology Summit sought to change public education's noted hesitance towards the virtual world by bringing together educators, industry experts and virtual world users in one student-focused brainstorming session, nothing the "increasingly fundamental role" technologies like virtual worlds play in students' lives.

5. Real-World Companies Shift Course in Metaverse Marketing

A corporate presence in Second Life needn't be all bad, especially if companies began to shift from their current position to one that encourages the creation of unique events and content, and promotes a more respectful advertising strategy to potential virtual customers.

Zynga’s Surging Revenue Shows Online Gaming’s Increasing Clout

6735_110500212090_683847090_2715127_968184_n Recent negative press about FarmVille developer Zynga has done little to rock the financial prospects of the "social gaming" giant, recent reporting by CNN and CNET reveals.

In fact, Zynga is poised to outdo the previous quarter's impressive performance before posting even more impressive financial figures amid a global recession and market turmoil.

Pixels and Policy investigates why Zynga has weathered the publicity storm, and why gaming companies are thriving in one of the largest economic contractions in decades.

Continue reading Zynga’s Surging Revenue Shows Online Gaming’s Increasing Clout

Zynga’s Virtual Currency System Comes Under Heavy Fire

Farmville Thanks to some extensive reporting by a few gaming-industry websites, prominent social media game companies like Zynga have a battle on their hands.

The big issue is whether Zynga – which recently announced a huge profit – is basing most of its impressive financial growth on scams.

Investigative blog Techdirt and Mike Arrington of TechCrunch took Zynga to task for drawing a huge revenue stream from what they argued are questionable contracts, intensive marketing to children, and developer-created scarcity.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at the allegations and finds out there's quite a bit to be said for the quality of games-industry journalism.

Continue reading Zynga’s Virtual Currency System Comes Under Heavy Fire

Can Virtual Currencies Eclipse Real Currency?

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EVE Online's ISK: The currency of the future?

From FarmVille Dollars to the Evony Cent, nearly every virtual world, multiplayer game and online environment seems to be adopting synthetic currencies – the little tokens we happily give our real money to acquire.

Virtual currencies each have their own exchange rate, from L$250 to $1 in Second Life to 50 Evony Cents for $5 and everywhere in between. But once successful virtual currency company now claims the success of a virtual currency has little to do with its price.

Pixels and Policy investigates Cellufun's claim that content – not cost – is the prime indicator of a virtual currrency's success.

Continue reading Can Virtual Currencies Eclipse Real Currency?

Can Virtual Worlds Promote Social Activism?

Haiti If you're one of FarmVille's 60 million active players, you've probably seen the option to invest your farm bucks into some truly special sprouts.

Zynga, the owner of addictive Facebook games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars, launched the "Sweet Seeds for Haiti" with the goal of lifting hundreds of impoverished Haitian families from destitution. It may just be working.

By channeling the power of its hundreds of millions of active players across multiple browser-based games, Zynga hopes to be the first major success story in the field of "virtual awareness." Pixels and Policy investigates.

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Virtual Economy Booms; Real Economy Busts

Lindendollar

          
The future world reserve currency?

Second Life may know something we don't, if this morning's report from the disconcertingly-titled Manolith is any indication.

It appears the economy of Second Life has surpassed that of the real world by a large margin, as the real-world recession fails to penetrate the confines of the Metaverse. Investors wiped out by the subprime mortgage scandals may want to pay attention.

The mad scientists at Linden Lab report stunning growth in the virtual world, with Linden – and real – Dollars flying out of wallets to the tune of $50 million per month.

That makes the locked-up credit markets of developed nations seem flimsy by comparison, with high interest rates choking real-world borrowing. Read on to learn how virtual economies are evading the real-world financial fallout.

Continue reading Virtual Economy Booms; Real Economy Busts