So online virtual worlds are vast social networks that people have an interest in and thus interact, play games, and/or perform activities/tasks for their avatars that may or may not affect the online environment around them. This is one of my definitions of virtual worlds. Anyway, I’m sure most of you already know that. What is interesting this week are the 3 readings that concentrate on the online businesses that stemmed from such virtual worlds which can be either massive multimedia online role play games (MMORPGs) or an actual social environment emulating that of the real world. These online businesses are better known to me as e-commerce (electronic in the “e”).
To quickly recap, Castronova’s article speaks about his personal adventures in an online world of his own choosing: that isn’t Second Life. His journal travel reports state that the learning curve for an initial newcomer was pretty high but after getting used to the environment and other people, he began making a difference or contributing to the environment. He also speaks in great detail about how many specific virtual worlds and environments created and designed by their owners (big companies) are big revenue (net sales, not profit) bringers. In short, even over 10 years ago, online virtual worlds that involve some sort of online subscriptions, online stores and/or sales of anything can net a company or person a decent to a lot of income. It also talks about a ballpark amount of how much each major company nets for each virtual online world. This piqued my interest after scanning this article on a possible online virtual world business venture: especially how Castronova speaks about how real world businesses get their footing in such online worlds which benefit them, the players, AND the company hosting that virtual world. But more on that later on.
First, this quotation from Castronova’s article,
“Interestingly, those who consider themselves residents of Norrath are not radically different from those who do not. The residents do tend to have lower education, fewer work hours, and lower wages, and they are less likely to have major Earth obligations (spouses, children). Like all emigrants, they are more likely to leave for the new world if the old world seems less promising, and if they have few obligations to stay.”
, made me stop and think. The author makes a point when he said that the “permanent” residents tend to have lower education, lower wages, and are less likely to have real world obligations. This is also known as online addiction where they are very much drawn to the online computer world so much that they prefer the online world over the real world. However, I would like to make a quick rebuttal on this subject matter: more people may not even tend to have lower education, wages, and real world obligations for those who spend more time online than others. Some may be very well educated and have decent jobs with good wages and a family. The key here is the amount of free time they possibly have and how they choose to spend it. Keep that in mind now.
Dibbell’s article speaks about how workers in China are exploited for low wages and pay in order to “farm gold” for points and/or “level up” game characters/profiles for profit. These points and levels benefit those of the players who actually pay not only to use the original game services by the original company but also the services of the workers in China who are paid little wages to do their hard-work for them. These levels and points earn bragging rights and certain game powers and characteristics after a certain level or amount of them. All act as currency online translated and altered from currencies in the real world as players will pay real world money to use in game currency for certain items and powers. So instead of farming for those points, why not buy them in bulk from a 3rd party company in China for a certain amount and have them instantly? It is a lucrative business that stemmed from an already successful popular online business from the original company. The 3rd party contracting those Chinese workers are more or less exploiting them without giving them much credit in this case.
On the other hand, Linden Lab’s report on IBM using their virtual online world space for online meetings and conventions/conferences was a large success. The fact that the company that made Second Life is acknowledging this venture is indicative of the fact that IBM gave big thanks and more than adequate credit to Second Life for their features and capabilities. The difference here between Dibbell’s example is that there is no 3rd party contractor or company that makes a profit for providing an external service to certain customers. IBM is the 1st party and rate customer of Second Life that paid them to use a vast amount of private space for their conventions/conferences. It is basically free advertisement for Second Life and Linden Labs since IBM used it: this means other companies, small and big, will want to use Second Life and their private spaces for their future virtual conventions too. Linden Labs, like other parent companies of virtual worlds and games such as World of Warcraft, will be rolling in the money soon enough. Or they likely already are.
In closing, I am now interested in seeing what it takes to start up an online business: in the form of a virtual world which can either be an MMORPG or a virtual environment like Second Life or even both! To go from ideas on paper to reality (virtual reality) would be a great feat and of excitement. Is anybody else interested in such a thing too? Or is this too boring or too complicated for some?