Friday, June 22, 2007

Virtual Goods Summit: Making Virtual Economies Work: What Does it Take to Get it Right?

Whether it's the virtual or physical world, successful economies don't happen by accident. What does it take to build and foster a thriving virtual economy? What lessons can we learn from folks who are on the forefront of tackling these issues? We'll explore what it takes to get a virtual economy right by tapping into the collective expertise of our audience and panelists.

» Joshua Hong, K2 Networks
» Brock Pierce, Affinity Media (IGE)
» Raphael Koster, Areae
» John Bates, Entropia Universe
» Mark Wallace, 3pointD (moderator)

Bates: A decorative item is very funcational. Virtual worlds are interesting because they are collaborative, you have social status. It's an interesting distinction, because it's possible for goods to be both all artistic and functional.

Koster: People come to your virtual world wanting stuff. The question is what do they want, how do I make the goods attractive, are they available other places - it comes down to practical questions, like re-sale? Are the items consumable, giftable, tradable, sale-able? How much can one carry, etc. People want stuff, but it's about getting them what they want.

Pierce: The Korean government is taking some of the first steps in regulating the market of virtual goods and virtual goods, where the exchanging of game awards to real dollars illegal.

Koster: We are facing similar laws in the US because of offshore gambling. Western governments are going to have to deal with digital asset issues, where there are precedents in other industries. There are data privacy laws, who owns IP - there are a lot of issues.

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Wallace: There is a case where the Linden Labs TOS - the document to click through to get to the virtual economies, and which have protected them thus far from lawsuits - but is this going to end because Linden Lab confiscated the man's real estate, which does have value?

Pierce: Fraud is rampant on places like eBay. It is easy to find stolen credit cards / Paypal accounts, and login to a game system, and begin to pay for goods and re-sell.

Hong: If you look at advanced markets, like South Korea, the publishers do not want to get into the virtual worlds business. It's tainted to them. So, Korea, there's a Chinese Wall between publishers and secondary markets. In the US, there are innovative companies that are becoming more involved with publishers. There is a secondary market that people will work with, and make money in.

Koster: Webkinz is one of the hottest toys right now, and the model is being pursued aggressively by other companies. You have a log-in number on the bottom of the foot, and more and more companies are getting involved in this way. It's a way to get more people into the universe and networks. In two years from now, I see 50+ MMOs on the market. I see five or six more.

Bates: We are seeing the real world banks get involved in these worlds, where the economies are crossing over into the real and virtual worlds.

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