CCP publishes a new economic newsletter

Dr. Eyjólfur Guðmundsson, the economist from CCP, HIIT’s partner in virtual economy research, has published one more Quarterly Economic Newsletter (QEN) for EVE Online. The latest issue deals with Q1/2008 and can be found here (the previous ones are Q3/2007 and Q4/2007). The latest issue includes updates to some of the indices that have been published in the past. In addition, there’s some information on one profession that the characters can take in EVE, that is, on manufacturing activity.

The share of characters that were engaged in some manufacturing activities during the Q1 of 2008 was 20 %, but only about 4 % of characters were doing manufacturing jobs on a continuous basis. So, if specialization is defined in this way, only a small portion of characters were actually specialized in this particular profession.

By the way, the QEN actually discusses “production” instead of “manufacturing”. I prefer reserving the former term to refer the activities in which inputs are used to produce outputs in general, and not only the particular game mechanic that uses the metaphor of physical production lines.

In his blog post, Dr. Guðmundsson promises a series of Newsletters during the rest of the year, so that Q4 will be out on January. Follow the EVE Online Dev Blog for news on the matter.

Call for Papers – SLACTIONS 2009

SLACTIONS 2009
Research conference in the Second Life® world – Life, imagination, and work using metaverse platforms

September 24-26, 2009

http://www.slactions.org

CALL FOR PAPERS

The metaverse is emerging, through the increasing use of virtual world technologies that act as platforms for end-users to create, develop, and interact, expanding the realm of human cooperation, interaction, and creativity. The conference focus is scientific research on applications and developments of these metaverse platforms: Second Life, OpenSim, Open Croquet, Activeworlds, Open Source Metaverse, Project Wonderland, and others, providing a forum for the research community to present and discuss innovative approaches, techniques, processes, and research results.

SLACTIONS 09 is the first international conference held simultaneously in several countries on the topic of metaverse platforms. SLACTIONS 09 aims at covering most areas currently enabled by metaverse platforms, from educational research to content production, from gender studies to media distribution, and from metaverse-based branding, advertising, and fundraising to emerging mash-ups and technology applications. SLACTIONS 09 is unique in its format too, as a one-of-a kind event conducted both in a metaverse platform (Second Life) and on-site in multiple countries throughout the world. SLACTIONS will thus contribute to the current redefinition of the way we think about hybrid online and on-site scholarly collaborations.

Whereas metaverse platforms are no longer a novel topic, they still pose challenges for the adaption of conventional instructional and business practices, research methodologies, and communication practices. We are looking forward to presenting a program of research results, case studies, panel discussions, and demonstrations that scholars, educators, and businesses can port to their own environments and apply in their research, teaching, and business strategy. We will accept papers from the full spectrum of intellectual disciplines and technological endeavors in which metaverse platforms are currently being used: from Education to Business, Sociology to Social Sciences, Media Production to Technology Development, Architecture and Urban Planning to the Arts.

Topics covered may include but are not limited to:

  • Accessibility in metaverse platforms
  • Advanced scientific visualization in metaverse platforms
  • Automatic content generation
  • Behavioral studies in the metaverse
  • Combination of metaverse platforms with external systems (e-learning, e-business, etc.)
  • Communicational paradigms in the metaverse
  • Content management
  • Creativity, design, and arts on the metaverse
  • E-business and e-commerce applications
  • Educational research, applications, and case studies
  • Embodiment in metaverses and Gender Studies
  • GIS/metaverse mash-ups
  • Integration between metaverse platforms
  • Nonprofit activities and fundraising
  • Quantitative and qualitative research methodologies
  • Social Sciences studies in or through metaverse platforms
  • Space representation, use, and management in metaverses
  • Using metaverse platforms for cooperation

FORMAT

SLACTIONS 09 has the format of a hybrid online and on-site conference. All paper presentations and plenary sessions by guest speakers will be held on-line, and projected locally for participants attending physically. Workshops are conducted locally – or in mixed format accross several participating chapters – and chapters may held local topical round tables.

SUBMISSIONS

Authors are invited to submit:

  • A full paper of eight to ten pages for oral presentation
  • A Flickr image or YouTube video, indexed with the tag “slactions 09” for poster presentations ‘in-world’ or presentation in SL using a creative format

All submissions are subject to a double blind review process and should be professionally proofread before submission. All manuscripts should be formatted according to the ASIS&T proceedings template.

(Disclaimer: SLACTIONS 2009 is not associated with ASIS&T.)
No manuscripts will be accepted that do not meet the required format.

PUBLICATION VENUES

All accepted papers will be published on-line and in an ISBN-registered CD-ROM/DVD-ROM of proceedings.
The Scientific Committee will invite authors of selected full papers to provide revised and expanded versions for publication in an ISBN-registered book. The authors of the best papers will be invited to provide revised and expanded versions for publications in special editions of journals or as single contributions to theme-specific journals:

Computer & Graphics (ISSN 0097-8493)

  • Best paper on computer graphics – invitation to submit expanded version.

International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning (ISSN 1753-5255)

  • Special issue with expanded versions of selected papers on education.

VIRTual (ISSN 0873-1837)

  • Special issue with expanded versions of selected papers on visualization, interactive systems and pattern recognition.

Check out www.slactions.org regularly for more information and developments on the book publisher, book series, and journal venues for best papers.

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF THE CONFERENCE

The official language for the on-line space and all submissions is English only. However, at the physical site of local chapters you can also use the native language of that location.

IMPORTANT DATES

  • February 28th, 2009 – Deadline for paper submissions
  • March 31st, 2009 – Submission results provided to authors
  • June 30th, 2009 – Deadline for early registration
  • July 31st, 2009 – Deadline for print-ready versions of accepted papers
  • September 24-26th, 2009 – Conference

LOCAL CHAPTERS

Belgium – Ghent University
Brazil/Rio Grande do Sul – Unisinos (Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos)
Brazil/São Paulo – Pontificia Universidade Católica de São Paulo
Hong Kong – Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Israel – HIT/Holon Institute of Technology
Portugal – Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Universidade do Minho, Universidade de Aveiro, Universidade do Porto
USA/Texas – University of Texas-Austin
USA/West Coast – University of California-Berkeley

Note: If you believe your institution can hold a physical chapter in an as-yet unsupported region, please contact the organization at info@slactions.org.

PROGRAMME COMMITTEE

Adriana Bruno, Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Ana Boa-Ventura, University of Texas-Austin, USA
António Ramires Fernandes, Universidade do Minho, Portugal
Augusto Abade, Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal
Carlos Santos, Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal
Daniel Gonçalves, Instituto Superior Técnico, Portugal
David Herold, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
Donizetti Louro, Pontificia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, Brazil
Dor Abrahamson, University of California-Berkeley, USA
Ederson Locatelli, Unisinos – Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, Brazil
Eliane Schlemmer, Unisinos (Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos), Brazil
Hanan Gazit, HIT-Holon Institute of Technology, Israel
Hilary Mason, Johnson & Wales University, USA
George Siemens, University of Manitoba, Canada
João Barroso, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal
Julian Lombardi, The Croquet Consortium, USA
Leonel Morgado, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal
Lucia Pesce, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, Brazil
Luís Pedro, Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal
Lynn Alves, Universidade do Estado da Bahia, Brazil
Maria da Graça Moreira, Pontificia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, Brazil
Martin Leidl, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany
Martin Valcke, Ghent University, Belgium
Miltiadis Lytras, Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece
Nelson Zagalo, Universidade do Minho, Portugal
Niall Winters, London Knowledge Lab, UK
Paulo Frias, Universidade do Porto, Portugal
Paul Penfold, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
Pedro Almeida, Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal
Pedro Sequeira, Escola Superior de Desporto de Rio Maior, Portugal
Peter Duffy, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
Pilar Lacasa, Universidad de Alcalá, Spain
Sneha Veeragoudar Harrell,University of California-Berkeley, USA
Stefan Göbel, ZGDV, Germany
Teresa Bettencourt, Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal
Tim Savage, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Vincent Ng, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

ORGANIZATION
Ana Boa-Ventura, University of Texas-Austin, USA
Leonel Morgado – Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal
Nelson Zagalo – Universidade do Minho, Portugal

CONTACTS

Organization: info@slactions.org

New Virtual Economy Research Network website launched

We are pleased to announce the launch of the new and improved Virtual Economy Research Network (VERN): a communication hub for scholars, students and developers interested in virtual goods, currencies and economies. The new site features:

 

  • VERN BLOG – Stay updated on virtual economy issues. Regular contributions from Adrian Crook, Benjamin Duranske, Juho Hamari, Jun-Sok Huhh, Greg Lastowka, Vili Lehdonvirta and Tuukka Lehtiniemi.
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY – The most extensive bibliography of scholarly works related to virtual economies. Submit references to your papers at http://virtual-economy.org/bibliography
  • DISCUSSION FORUM – Discuss blog entries and start your own threads at http://virtual-economy.org/forum/32
  • RESEARCH LINKS – An up-do-date list of links to useful online materials. Submit your own links at http://virtual-economy.org/research_links

Virtual Economy Research Network is maintained since 2006 by Helsinki Institute for Information Technology for the purpose of promoting academic research and enhancing communication between scholars and developers in topics related to virtual goods, currencies and economies.

Read more at http://virtual-economy.org/introduction

There are still some rough spots left on the renewed site, so please bear with us as we work to perfect it. For any comments, suggestions and feedback, please send email to vern(ät)virtual-economy.org.

Looking forward to seeing you on the new site!

Yours sincerely,

Vili Lehdonvirta, Tuukka Lehtiniemi, Juho Hamari

VERN Editors

Netherlands Court Finds Criminal Liability and Sentences Two Youths for Theft of Virtual Goods

RunescapeOur friends at MindBlizzard report that a Netherlands court has found criminal liability for the real-world theft of virtual goods from the hybrid free/paid MMO roleplaying game Runescape.

From the post at MindBlizzard:

[T]he court has reached a verdict and has sentenced two boys to conditional detention and civil services because of the virtual theft from the game Runescape. [T]he boys from Leeuwarden, at the time both 14 years old, forced a thirteen-year-old victim to hand over virtual goods, a mask and an amulet, and to transfer the items to their account. The thirteen year old had collected a large amount of credits with which artifacts could be purchased. The boys forced him to a house and there he was kicked and threatened with a knife, until he transferred the goods and credits.

Runescape screenshotOne aspect of the case is particularly intriguing — according to MindBlizzard, “the lawyers argued during the meeting that virtual goods do not really exist, and transferring [them] does not conflict with the rules of the game, but the court thought otherwise.” The Associated Press reports that the court confirmed this analysis in a summary of its ruling: “These virtual goods are goods (under Dutch law), so this is theft.” That’s interesting, and for better or worse, one small step toward more widespread recognition of virtual goods as something more than just mere ones and zeros owned by the company hosting them. The court could have ducked this aspect of the case and simply sentenced the kids for assault, but apparently the question of the nature of virtual personal property actually came up, and the court had no issue with the concept.

The original source for this is an article in Webwereld (and the translation by Google), but nobody seems to have the any documents from the court. I’m not sure if courts in the Netherlands put documents online (probably unlikely in juvenile matters) but if anyone manages to track down anything official, send me a copy and I’ll host it here.

[Updated 10/22: A VB reader found the original court opinion and put a link to a Google translation in the comments. Thanks!]

Mindtrek ’08 & Revenue model innovation in Chinese online game market

Reporting in from Tampere, Finland. I am here at Mindtrek, or should I say, I am ON a Mindtrek. Mindtrek is an annual mediaweek with variety of events and competitions for new innovations and products. Since last year they have also had an academic conference beside all the other wide ranging activities. I also participated in Mindtrek in 2000, which was on the primetime of the dot-com bubble. This year the themes are ranging from games to social media and to ubiquitous computing. Anyway, today I’m here in my original hometown taking part to the academic track on games.

This track consists of three main themes: 1) creativity engagement and algorithms in games 2) games in education, learning and health care, and 3) policies in game industry. All of these are intriguing topics, but what I’m especially interested in is the final presentation/paper about “Revenue Model Innovation in the Chinese Online Market” by Jessie Qun Ren and Philip Hardwick.

Coincidentally, it seems that in the paper Ren and Hardwick have taken a perspective of dynamic business models, which is a concept that I myself have been considering lately. The concept emphasizes the changing nature of business models due to changes in surrounding factors of a firm, like changes in the market, financial horizon and technology. Dynamic business model concept in general is best covered in the works of Harry Bouwman and Ian MacInnes. In my opinion this perspective to business models in contrast to static business models is highly valid and a needed angle. It helps to better grasp the developments of business models for a given corporation or industry and gives frames to really follow the life cycle and determinants of business model adaptation. Unfortunately Ren and Harwick have not explored the dynamic business model framework in detail.

In the paper the shift from the conventional time-based revenue models to item-based revenue models and beyond to mixed models is discussed. According to Ren and Hardwick prior to 2005 almost all of the MMO operators in China used time-based revenue model with a high emphasis on using pre-paid cards. In 2005 the industry experienced a revolutionary shift steered by a company called Shanda, who released three highly profitable free-to-play games. According to the paper, in 2008 69% of Chinese online games used free-to-play revenue models. The CEO of Giant Interactive states that the revenue of the whole industry market increased by 70% annually during last three years because of the shift from time-based to item-based revenue models.

Nevertheless, according to Ren and Hardwick, Chinese operators started to adopt diversified and time-based revenue models again now in 2008. The authors present a couple of reasons for this shift including games lacking unique content and features, high-quality support and service, which presumably are due to too small revenues. Also, according to the paper, operators are lacking capital for exploring new distribution channels. Other determinants for revenue model changes are weaknesses of item-based revenue model. Ren and Hardwick state that a weakness of item-based revenue model is the problem of players feeling frustrated due to other players spending more money and thus promoting unfair circumstances between players. Thus, operators try to address this by providing both alternatives; item- and time –based billing.

Ren and Hardwick also provide some good insights to Chinese online game industry. One of the interesting details is how Shanda(the supposed revenue model pioneer in Chinese industry) names the free-to-play model as “Come-Stay-Pay”. I think this name nicely sums the different goals a free-to-play game operator has. Come as in acquiring a massive user base by marketing. Stay as in having a continuous engaging game by designing and publishing new content. Pay as in monetizing as many users as possible with the interplay of marketing and propitious game design that supports item sales.

I would have hoped for further details on the determinants affecting revenue model changes as well as a rigorous framework for categorizing and further conceptualizing the determinants. One good way of doing this could be using the framework provided by Harry Bouwman and Ian MacInnes in “Dynamic Business Model Framework for Value Webs” in 2006.

Other hastily written notes from other presentations on the games track:

First presentation was on boredom, engagement and anxiety as indicator for adaptation to difficulty in games by Chanel et al. The research done in this paper was quite similar to the study conducted here at HIIT. Respiration, blood pressure, temperature and GSR were monitored between different game difficulties in a tetris game. Similar research has also been done at HIIT with FPS games, where analogous indicators were used to adjust game difficulty. Actually, Kai Kuikkanieni, who has been doing this research at HIIT, was also present in the games track.

Third presentation was on a novel paradigm for educational games by Sisler et al. They introduced a turn-based-augmented-learning-MMO-strategy game. The game is being tested and implemented in eight high-schools in Czech to teach issues related to Europe.

The game in the third presentation reminds me of Civilization games. This brings me to think of Civilization-type game with virtual asset sales. How could we incorporate virtual assets sales into such games? Come to think of it; I can’t remember any Civilization-like game that utilizes virtual assets sales. There probably are such games in Asia. Can you point me to some of them? There is of course Travian, where player can buy boosts and so forth to increase village growth, but these can not be traded between players. It would be interesting to have a currency system in place in a game such as this and have players trade and manage RMT-economy. Really use money to grow their civilizations and really preserve the freeform essence of these games. This scenario would arise some very interesting ways to use currency and items that would be sold with real money. There could be many different implementations where the currency could be used. For example Combat Arms by Nexon has some novel ideas for chargeable items, e.g. items which reset player’s status. Same kinds of items in civilization management game might work. Also items/services that enhance diplomacy and other complex dimensions in these games would be interesting. Anyway, I think this is an idea worth exploring further.

Fifth presentation was on exploring how to combine promoting health awareness and engaging gameplay by Sulhonen et al. Ah, the usual problem: how to combine fun, gaming, learning and behaviour promotion.

I think there are couple of differing dimension to combining these: 1) how to support learning by gameplay 2) how to use learning as an element of more interesting gameplay? 3) how to use for example incentives to stay fit as incentives to play games or use services (selfish) or perhaps 4) how to incentivise people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do, for example preserve energy. (unselfish)
Examples:
1) Learning games.
2) Many adventure games incorporate learning only for entertainment purposes. For example in Nancy Drew adventure game series a player must learn real-world things in order to progress in the game.
3) Nokia sports tracker / Chorewars
4) EcoIsland

Seventh presentation was on interactive multiplayer gaming by Thorsten Blum who is cooperating with SUSIGAMES. He introduced their space invaders implementation of “hemispheral” playing. The idea is best summarized here. Very interesting stuff. Check it out.

Reading Room: “Transactions of Virtual Items in Virtual Worlds” by Michael Passman

This edition of Virtually Blind’s Reading Room features an article addressing legal issues associated with transactions of virtual items in virtual worlds. The article, Transactions of Virtual Items in Virtual Worlds (.pdf), by Michael Passman, is available here courtesy of the author and the Albany Law Journal of Science & Technology. Passman is a recent law school graduate who works at Cassiday Schade LLP in Chicago.

Transactions of Virtual Items in Virtual Worlds raises some interesting questions, including key inquiries into the nature of virtual goods. Passman argues that “transactions in virtual items are not sales of goods, but, rather, licenses of intellectual property.” His theory is based partly on an analysis of the virtual items themselves, and partly on user expectation, as derived from interviews with Second Life users. From Passman’s article:

In the interviews, thirty-six percent of users stated that buyers should expect to receive extra or different features from those the buyers thought they would receive. In a world where there is no way to tell who a seller really is, or sometimes even to find someone again after an initial meeting, it is not surprising that over one-third of users expected purchased items to be a little different than represented to buyers.

Virtual world users are similarly split on whether or not a buyer has the choice to invoke the Article 2 breach rules in the case of a partial shipment. Fifty-four percent of users expected buyers to be able to cancel the whole deal if they did not receive every item for which they had contracted. Forty-one percent of users did not expect a buyer to have the power to cancel the whole deal under such circumstances.

Passman draws some interesting conclusions from his interviews including, as noted above, that virtual world users expect licenses, not sales. He also concludes that the standards governing breach of contract should be relaxed for transactions in the virtual world because “buyers” (or licensees) understand that there’s a good chance they’ll not get what they apparently bargained for.

I suspect that this paper will draw some attention, as it takes a fresh — and potentially controversial — stance on virtual item transactions.

Virtually Blind’s Reading Room is here to make virtual law papers, particularly papers that haven’t yet been widely distributed, broadly available to attorneys and scholars interested in virtual law. If you have a paper you’d like to have hosted here, drop me a note.