September 2007


First myspace conquered the world. In its wake came Facebook. Now, even your best friend’s mom has a Facebook account.koinup.jpg

But what’s next? For some it will be Koinup.

Koinup is the first social networking site for your virtual life. Not exclusive to Sims gamers, Second Life devotees or WoW weekend warriors, KoinUp is a place where you can give your multiple virtual world identities their own social network.

Koinup was founded in March 2007 and has thus far chosen to focus on Second life, Imvu, WoW and Sims 2 – but are not exclusive to these worlds. The most powerful feature – some sort of integration with these games – hasn’t happened yet, so Koinup instead pledges to be a place to document all your virtual world activities.

I signed up for an account and was very impressed with the ease of registration. I think it tool a minute and a half total with no frustrating or invasive queries for personal information. It was also fun to get the user name I always try and grab on new sites – without resorting to a 36 letter mutation of an English word or a numeric sequence after the handle of choice.

Koinup’s design is fairly straight forward, although not as intuitive as it could be. Where Koinup stumbles is the English language. It doesn’t have the easy colloquialism of most Web 2.0 sites. A couple snippets:

It’s very easy to use and it allow to anyone who have some ideas to tell stories.

Koinup takes your privacy very seriously. For more info, give a look to our Privacy Policy.

But the founders, Italians Pierluigi Casolari (CEO) and Edoardo Turelli (CTO), likely speak their native language better than I. Casolari pulls double duty as the site’s content creator, but there’s room for a translator or English editor on their team.

Koinup allows users to upload videos such as Machinima and tutorials, associated still images and still image series referred to as storyboards. One of the great features Koinup has incorporated is CrossPosting, or the ability to load pictures onto Flickr and other photo sharing sites from within the Koinup uploading system. At this point, CrossPosting doesn’t work with video or storyboards but perhaps that will come next.

One aspect of Koinup that stood out was the site’s emphasis on “Coolness” (their word). Obviously the idea of karma or kudos or cred has been present in social networking sites almost from day 1, but never has it been tacked on quite so blatantly. Site members themselves in addition to the media they uploaded are ranked on coolness. The coolness of media is determined using the usual vectors like views and comments, but member coolness is determined with a “unique” metric.

Members are ranked on coolness based on the popularity of their work (naturally) but also by the number of times that member has flagged offensive material in other people’s profiles.

This is a bit of a head scratcher. It’s akin to incentivizing programmers for finding bugs. Obviously peer moderation is crucial in a user created content environment, but such a direct rewarding for overzealous policing seems destined to backfire.

Ideas like Koinup are inevitable, but Koinup is in need of much refinement before it serves its audience well. I’m looking forward to the next iteration of an avatar social network – whether it’s Koinup or not – as we’re certain to hear a lot more about social networking for the metaverse.

Three questions, a couple that Koinup might answer:

  1. Do people use similar avatar personalities in different worlds?
  2. How many people use multiple virtual worlds concurrently?
  3. Couldn’t Facebook or myspace easily incorporate avatar profiles – either on their own or as a section of your primary profile – thereby eroding the market for standalone avatar social networks?

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Apologies for the lack of updates lately. Kid #2 is mere days away and we’re moving house in a week. Very busy.

I was catching up on my feeds today and decided to buckle down and plow through this interview with Kwari’s Marketing Director. I don’t even know where to begin with Kwari. It’s certainly not “Free to Play” as you can’t so much as fire off a round without first purchasing ammo.

Worse yet, every time you absorb a shot, money is deducted from your account. So when you start the game with nothing but an unloaded gun, you’ll quickly soak up enough bullets to deplete your account by several bucks. At this point you can choose to either stop playing altogether (to save money) or purchase ammo and health in order to stem the tide of cash flowing off your credit card. This is not a compulsion loop, it’s a repulsion loop.

One of the more interesting aspects of this game is how it will avoid being classed as a game of chance (i.e. gambling) and legislated out of existence. Cue giant speech about why they’re a skill-based game:

Al King: It’s absolutely about player skill, and that’s a very important point for us in many ways. With all the changes in legislation as far as poker-related websites are concerned, it was very important to us that we got rid of any elements of chance or randomness and make it a skill-based game. We’ve already been classified as… well, we haven’t been classified as a skill-based activity because there is no such category in the UK where VAT (Value Added Tax, a form of tax applied to all purchased goods levied by most or all European governments) but we haven’t been classified as ‘gambling’ which does have it’s own form of status over there, and that’s a big achievement for us. We’ve also been classified by the banks for credit card use as ‘non-gambling’, so we’re fine in the UK and in the key European territories. When it comes to the USA we basically have to take our case on a state-by-state basis and say ‘Here’s what we are, here’s what we do, we’re being gracious, transparent and responsible about the whole thing.’ Fundamentally we are skill-based, we’re not gambling, but we are subject to the same laws that cover gambling, and so we just need to be patient about the speed we can roll out in North America, but we’re hopeful that we can get running in some key states in the first half of ‘08.

Ironically, after all that, a few paragraphs down Mr. King discusses one of Kwari’s unique features – something called a “Cash Bomb”:

Al King: There’s also another feature – which we know we won’t have ready for launch, but we want to implement it asap – called the ‘Cash Bomb’. It might look a bit like the Pill, we’re not sure yet, but we do know that it will hang around in the game world and maybe move around like a little sentient robot and players will shoot it. The reason why is that after a number of shots, it will explode and all the cash in it will go to the player who scored the shot – it might be $10, $100, or $1000, maybe more. The cash bomb will be completely funded by the shots the players fire into it. So you might be running around the map looking for someone to shoot, and you run across the Bomb, and you reckon ‘It’s only going to cost me a few cents’, so you fire a few rounds into it. And most of the time, nothing will happen, but every now and again someone will get lucky and the bomb will explode, and whoever got it will see coins and bills all floating towards them and their in-game account will go up by a nice chunk.

Hate to nitpick here, but that sounds exactly like a slot machine to me. Not much skill involved in running by, randomly shooting (aka inserting quarters) and hoping the bomb explodes and showers you with cash.

It will be interesting to see where Kwari winds up as a lot of what they’re doing appears antithetical to free to play or even game design principles in general.

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From this post on NCsoft’s Dev Corner, Richard Garriot discusses NCsoft’s plan to build free to play console games.

PS3 NCsoft games would incorporate “traditional subscription models, micropayment systems and free-to-play games with membership options,” according to the CEO.

Elsewhere in the post, Garriot indicates we might see the first NCsoft PlayStation 3 game by Christmas of next year (2008) – a product that sounds likely to be a re-use of one of their existing IPs, i.e. City of Heroes, Guild Wars or Dungeon Runners. He notes that original IP console games will take 2-3 years (i.e. 2009/2010).

Garriot also suggests that NCsoft intends to start a new studio to handle console development, but more likely is that the work will be farmed out to existing studios, not a new one.

“…We are also looking at specific projects that we may house in other studios. This includes our Austin offices or our other currently existing studios. Console game development won’t just be at one single location,” he added.

Garriot hints that Xbox 360/XBLA is not NCsoft’s first choice for their F2P products due to the restrictive nature of Microsoft’s Live infrastructure. Aspects of my earlier post, The Economics of a Free To Play Console Game, may be relevant here as I examined the feasibility of doing a F2P XBLA game.

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An old friend of mine from my EA days today launched an innovative service called PlayTeeVee.com that allows Tivo users to play games for free on their sets. Right now it’s primarily family / casual games, but I know he has plans for deeper games in the near future. I can’t reveal exactly what, but it’s cool stuff.

If you have Tivo Series 2, definitely check it out. It’s free to play, after all.

Full PlayTeeVee press release after the jump. (more…)

Just announced today, “Game Show” seems to be a free to play, ad-supported sports trivia game with daily streaming video content updates. But it’s more than just a game as the game features a live host and prizes for the winners. Game Show launches this fall.

EA SPORTS GameShow allows participants from around the country to compete head to head, answering a series of multiple choice questions related to the world of sports. The live game show host will facilitate each session, streamed over the Internet in real-time. Questions will be presented through a variety of media, including text, audio and video. Players will also be able to track their performance instantly, with prize incentives. The online sports trivia game will also feature customizable avatars and leader boards, with call outs to regional and national winners.

For more, check out the full press release or the last paragraph of this Peter Moore interview for more details.

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Actiontrip has just posted a 2 pager on what it believes are the five most popular game communities, presumably in the world. Although the list isn’t ranked and doesn’t include any of the bigger Asian success stories, it has some interesting numbers.

Here are some highlights.

On CounterStrike:

Last we checked, the CS community had just over 174,665 active servers, with approximately 276,552 gamers playing online at the time we did our research (so just over 2 players per server, eh? – Ed). If the statistics on Steam are to be believed, this should translate into roughly 9.423 billion (yes, that’s the correct amount) minutes of play time per month.

On Runescape:

Recent research indicated that 13.1% of all PC gamers have played Runescape at some point throughout June 2007, with the average RuneScape player spending 673 minutes per week within the game. After this RuneScape became the 5th most played PC game just behind Blizzard’s World of Warcraft and games like Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2 and, of course, The Sims.

On Halo:

The most recent update showed that almost 12,706 players were online in Halo 2 at the time when we checked. Also, around 261,820 unique players were registered, with 688,136 matches logged (data from the last 24 Hours).

The lack of Asian representation likely stems from the all-North American sources used for the article: NPD, Steam, Bungie.net, Google Trends and Nielsen Media Research.

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