It looks like MindArk, the company behind Entropia Universe (whose virtual currency is pegged and freely tradeable at 10 to the U.S. dollar), is getting in on the Washington lobbying act. Congress has been looking at issues of taxation related to virtual worlds since at least last October, and the Joint Economic Committee is long overdue with a promised report. (Or did I miss this?) This week, it seems, they’ll hear from Marco Behrmann, MindArk’s CIO, who is in Washington to speak to the IRS as well, according to this post on the RCE Universe forums. [Via RCEUniverse’s Nate Randall.] I’ll be interested to see where this all ends up, of course, but the most sensible take I’ve heard on this issue comes from Bryan Camp of Texas Tech University, who noted last year that, for the most part, the legal issues are settled, it’s just a matter of figuring out (or deciding) where virtual worlds fall within them. There’s probably slightly more to it than that, but not much. For my money, a more interesting issue is the related one of whether these environments can be ruled to be public places (like some shopping malls) and the implications of such a ruling for governing them. <shameless plug>You can read more about that kind of thing in our book when it’s published at the end of October.</shameless plug>
With the news a few days ago that MMO space opera EVE Online had hired an in-game economist, most commentators focused on how much fun he would have compared to all the other economists in the world, and how curious it would be to read quarterly reports from an imaginary universe. I think it has broader ramifications than that, particuarly when it comes to economies such as that of Second Life and Entropia Universe, which are explicitly tied to real-world currencies. Though Second Life pushes itself as a place where real money can be earned, it has consistently done a very poor job of making any useful economic information available. Its reports don’t resemble traditional economic and business reports, and in any case lack clear explanation of their methodology. They’re useful as far as they go, but they don’t go nearly far enough — which is an inexcusable state of affairs for a place that’s advertised as a capitalist paradise. The presence of EVE’s new economist should provide at least some distant motivation for Second Life to get its economic act together. Continue reading
David Liu, chief executive of Beijing-based Cyber Recreation Development Corp., compared the upcoming Chinese virtual world with a three-dimensional eBay, where users can shop online through a more visually appealing interface.
(CRDC is backed by the Beijing government and is responsible for the project.) Continue reading
MindArk, makers of the virtual world Entropia Universe, will build a virtual world for the Cyber Recreation Development Corporation, which is backed by the Beijing Municipal People’s Government, that will support up to 7 million users connected at the same time, according to a press release. The press release isn’t entirely clear on whether the 7 million concurrency figure is in a single shard, or copy of the virtual world (as in Second Life), or across many shards (as in World of Warcraft). A clue: “The cooperation agreement with China will generate hundreds of new planets and open up space for travel between the planets.”
It does sound like Entropia will be opened up to other companies and governments who want to build their own “planets” there: “The technology introduced with this project will enable other companies within media, film, music and gaming industries, or other content providers, to acquire their own planet within Entropia Universe. In turn, this will provide a diverse, entertaining and interesting three-dimensional virtual universe of vast proportions for participants to explore. A number of the world’s largest corporations within the aforementioned business sectors are currently in negotiations to purchase their own planet within Entropia Universe.” Continue reading
Virtual entrepreneur Anshe Chung will launch a virtual world-spanning financial market in early June, according to a news release on the Anshe Chung Studios site. The service will “allow direct capital flow and investment across virtual world boundaries,” and will link the markets of Second Life, Entropia Universe and IMVU. Anshe Chung Studios — which is run by German citizens Ailin and Guntram Graef — will provide “a virtual financial market, financial products and a set of services” linking the three worlds. Among other things, the service will allow Second Life residents to invest their Linden dollars in things like malls and other locations in Entropia. Second Life land funds and similar instruments would be available for investment by holders of IMVU and Entropia currency, and IMVU fashion businesses might receive investments in L$ or PED (the Entropia currency). It remains to be seen whether there’s much of a market for such inter-world investment, but Anshe has a very interesting take on the possible effects of making financial borders more porous: Continue reading
German bank Wirecard Bank AG has opened »an island« in the virtual world of Second Life, according to a press release [< -- registration required]. The German financial services provider is also planning to set up shop in Entropia Universe, it says, which implies that it may be one of the five winners of the banking licenses that Entropia recently auctioned. Continue reading
A small raft of news emerged from the virtual world of Entropia Universe this week, including tie-ups with MasterCard and a real-life bank, and a new awards show being put on by virtual entrepreneurs Anshe Chung and Jon “Neverdie” Jacobs.
First up, MasterCard. Entropia has been trying to implement a real-life card for some time. A year ago, it gave its customers the ability to deposit real money to their game accounts via a bank card used at an ATM. Cash was withdrawn from your real-world account, converted on the fly into PED, Entropia’s virtual currency (which is fixed at 10 to the U.S. dollar), and deposited into your Entropia account. Entropia also has a reloadable debit card that you can deposit your PED to, which is then available as real-world cash at ATMs. Now, the company has struck a new deal with a financial institution that can give its cards MasterCard branding, Entropia says: “The new card will be cheaper to use for our customers, and have more functions including MasterCard branding which will allow the card to be used in retail outlets as well as traditional ATMs.” [Via RCEUniverse.] Continue reading
Nate Randall of RCE Universe sends along the news that Second Life mogul Anshe Chung has won one of five banking licenses recently auctioned in the virtual world of Entropia Universe. Though billed as “banking licenses,” they really give their holders the right to use the in-world interface and non-player characters to make collateralized loans and collect interest, which is an interesting way to go about it. Entropia notes, of course, that “Should an interested party hold a real banking license in the real world, many more services and features can be added.” It doesn’t appear any of the winners meet that qualification, although they are listed only be avatar name, so you never know. It’s an interesting prospect.
Randall seems to have scooped Entropia itself, which is still running the auction announcement. According to Randall’s figures, Anshe seems to have been almost the shrewdest bidder, winning her license for PED600,000, or US$60,000 — the Entropia currency trades at a fixed 10 to the U.S. dollar — while the other winners bid PED590,608, PED900,002, PED950,001, and PED999,000. The auctions were held in the in-game auction system, Randall reports, where bidding was fierce in the final minutes. Continue reading
The pre-lunch panel at VW07 was on “platforms and technologies,” moderated by Jerry Paffendorf of the Electric Sheep Company. Unfortunately, I chose to sit upstairs by the coffee, which apparently inspired most of the audience to chat to each other throughout the panel.
â€¢ We’ll be open-sourcing the back end so sims can run anywhere on any machine whether trusted by us or not.
â€¢ We’ll be delivering assets in a totally different method that won’t be such a burden on the simulators.
â€¢ Very soon we’ll be updating simulators to support multiple versions so that we don’t have to update the entire Grid at once.
â€¢ We’ll be using open protocols.
â€¢ SL cannot truly succeed as long as one company controls the Grid.
Joe also had a slide showing that SL is going to migrate straight to Havok 4. Eventually.
And now, back to our panel. Continue reading
The virtual world known as Entropia Universe announced last May that ATM cards would be made available that would allow members to withdraw their in-world currency as hard cash at real-world ATMs. (Entropia’s PED currency is fixed at 10 to the US dollar.) Now comes the news that the bank that had backed that service will no longer be supported by MasterCard, effectively shutting down the ATM project for the moment. The Financial Institutions Commission of British Columbia reportedly called the bank a “rogue financial institution” having “shown complete disregard for the laws of British Columbia.” It’s impossible to tell whether Entropia picked a lame horse or the Commission took exception to the bank’s distributing virtual currency. Either way, it spells the end, at least for the moment, of one of the more interesting crossovers between the virtual and the real — though it may have been a crossover that was doomed from the start, given the regulatory issues involved. [Via Virtual Worldlets.]
Tony Walsh flags a couple of interesting stories from the world of virtual finance today. The virtual world of Entropia Universe is apparently auctioning off five virtual banking licenses, each with a two-year term, for vendors who will provide real-world banking services to players of the game. Meanwhile, over in Second Life, Kyle Polulak’s Crystal Studio (here’s their blog) is already experimenting with automated teller machines that would allow you to deposit L$ to a real-life bank account, with the transactions presumably being reflected in real-world denominations, according to an SLNN article. (Polulak, aka SL resident Fox Diller, is based in Canada.) Continue reading
Entropia Universe continues to baffle. The virtual world just closed an auction of three “prestigious” shopping malls, which brought a total of US$179,666 in PED, their virtual currency, which is fixed at 10 to the US dollar. Bids had started at PED1 just a few days ago, if I understand the situation correctly. They were won by two Entropia players: Onkel RobRoy Bob took the Twin Peaks and Emerald Lakes malls for PED350,004 and PED746,007 respectively, while the Port Atlantis mall went to Epsilon Eps Vaz for PED700,667. I’d be interested to know whether this was money these players earned in Entropia or bought with real-world currency. Can a virtual shopping mall really make back that kind of investment? Well, they do each come with space for 36 shops and three Trade Centers, as well as rooftop spacecraft landing pads (pictured) “for future use.” More details on how all this works would be welcome, if any Entropians are reading this.
Entropia Universe continues to baffle. The massively multiplayer online game turned virtual world now claims half a million users, according to a recent press release. And there are still PR flaks pushing the exploits of Jon “Neverdie” Jacobs, an Entropia member who reportedly purchased a virtual space report for the whopping sum of $100,000. What the flaks don’t tell you is that Jacobs was (is?) a paid Entropia spokesperson, making the purchase more or less meaningless. Continue reading
The Second Life Insider, a new blog from AOL’s Weblogs Inc., reports on the recent auction of a Second Life automobile that fetched US$2,000 for charity. (Also on Chris Carella’s Electric Sheep blog.) The auction was part of the fund-raising effort that’s on at the moment for the American Cancer Society‘s second annual Second Life Relay for Life. Over at SecondCast, we interviewed the event’s organizers last week, and podcaster extraordinaire John Swords just posted the episode last night (which you can also listen to in the sidebar here). But $2,000 for a virtual car? Evidence of nothing more than that virtual worlds can be quite effective places to do charity work. The Relay event is this weekend, July 22-23, so log into SL now and get your virtual running shoes on. Continue reading
Tony Walsh reports that you can now buy Entropia Universe currency, known as PED, via real-world ATMs. According to an Entropia Universe press release, players can acquire an ATM card from the company (Entropia Universe) that will allow them to transfer money from their bank accounts to their Entropia accounts via Versatel ATMs. Continue reading
Business Week is running a Second Life package in its current issue — a cover story, no less, complete with podcast. The package starts here, and of course features Anshe Chung, the world’s most famous real-estate magnate, whose avatar is plastered across the magazine’s cover. Though the piece calls the SL scene “seriously weird,” it’s also one of the first to take the business aspect of VWs seriously, including mention of Microsoft‘s Robert Scoble’s interest in SL, and, unfortunately, the $100,000 purchase of a space station in Project Entropia, now Entropia Universe that turned out to have been made by someone working for the company. All in all, though, it’s good, balanced, recommended reading.
The new name embodies the concept of Entropia Universe as more than just another MMORPG, but rather a complete virtual world with the unique identifier of allowing players to utilize a RCE (Real Cash Economy). The built-in RCE links the internal Entropia Universe economy to that of a real world through a fixed exchange rate of $1 USD for 10 PED (project entropia dollars).
Two interesting payment models to note where virtual worlds, both single- and multi-player, are concerned: First, SL resident Glitchy Gumshoe at the SL Future Salon flags a post by Raph Koster in which the legendary MMO developer talks about “company-sanctioned RMT” in the single-player game Oblivion. (Also from Xbox Live Director of Programming Larry Hryb’s blog.)
Basically, it seems you can swap points in Oblivion for downloadable armor for your mount. (And if this catches on, there’s certainly more to come.) Since Oblivion is a single-player game, this would seem to circumvent the usual objections over “real-money trade.” But as Raph points out, the Xbox Live ranking system essentially makes a massively multiplayer universe out of everyone’s single-player Xbox games by letting other players view your progress and accomplishments. Continue reading