OK Law Addresses Virtual Estates

December 7, 2010 -

If you are planning your last will and testament in the state of Oklahoma, you now have to worry about what to do with your virtual belongings. According to a report in the IB Times (thanks EZK), a new state law in Oklahoma gives estate executors and administrators the power to "access, administer, or terminate" social media and online accounts.

According to former state Rep. Ryan Kiesel (D-Seminole), a co-author of House Bill 2800 (before he left office), the law is meant to remind people that, when they are planning what happens to their real-world estate, they should probably figure out what they want done with their virtual stuff as well.

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Can You Balance The U.S. Budget?

November 15, 2010 -

The New York Times has created an online "game" that allows you to tackle the U.S. budget deficit by creating a plan of your own. When you are done implementing the plan, you can see how it actually will affect the deficit - if at all. I haven't tried it personally, but Gawker mucked around with it by moving tax levels back to the Clinton era and getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan. They claim that did the trick. Here is the lead-in from the NYT:

"Today, you’re in charge of the nation’s finances. Some of your options have more short-term savings and some have more long-term savings. When you have closed the budget gaps for both 2015 and 2030, you are done. Make your own plan, then share it online."

You can play Mr. -- or Mrs. FixIt by visiting the NYT. Thanks Gawker.

20 comments

EU Dumps €275k into Pedestrian Looking "Government RPG"

August 30, 2010 -

The European Service Network (ESN), operating under a budget of 275,000 Euros (approximately $349,000 U.S.) from the European Parliament's Directorate-General for Communication, is developing an online role-playing game—and social networking forum—that it hopes will capture “the essence of European Parliament.”

Named Citzalia, the online experience was compared to Second Life and will have users create an avatar before being able to,  “navigate around a virtual recreation of the actual Parliament, to create content, and to involve themselves in virtual law-making.”

Survey Says: Women Spend More on Virtual Goods

July 22, 2010 -

According to a survey from VGMarket, women spend more money than men when it comes to social gaming. The survey found that female gamers spent $15 more per year on "first-party purchases" in social games than men, and twice as much on in-game money. Women 25 years old and older in North America spent a lot more on virtual currency and items than men: overall spending was $80 for females and $60 for males, even though 78 percent of 2221 respondents were men.

The original survey also found that 75 percent of respondents had purchased digital goods within the last 12 months; but it only polled users of micro-transaction sites PlaySpan, its subsidiary Ultimate Game Card and Facebook currency service Spare Change. It should also be noted that the survey was commissioned by PlaySpan; later VGMarket removed the 75 percent statistic has now been removed from the survey, because it only sampled PlaySpan customers. While the survey's methodology was slightly exclusionary in its questioning and only offered a narrow look into spending habits on certain services, it's still of interest.

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Wii, Gears of War Part of Wisconsin Embezzlement Scheme

July 16, 2010 -

A probe into the misuse of city funds by management information systems employees vendors of the Wisconsin city of Fond du Lac turned up money spent on videogames and will result in criminal charges.

Over $200,000 in municipal funds was spent illegally by four MIS employees and two city vendors, all of whom have been, or will soon be, charged in the embezzlement scheme according to the FDLReporter. Money was spent on items including an infant kangaroo costume, a Nintendo Wii bundle and even an $87 ham. Additional items seized under the investigation included a copy of Gears of War and 16 guns, “three or four” of which were suspected of being purchased with taxpayer funds.

Checks and balances designed to stave off such improper spending were easily circumvented, in part, because MIS employees new their supervisor’s password.

Items that were able to be physically recovered are being stored at the police department and may be sold at auction so the city can recover some money.


Finnish Police Track Stolen Habbo Hotel Goods

June 1, 2010 -

Finnish police are investigating the theft of virtual property in the popular teen hangout, Habbo Hotel. According to a news report published on breitbart.com, significant amounts of virtual property were stolen from some 400 users of the virtual world using "hoax web sites" to trick users into divulging their usernames and passwords.

Armed with that information, the thieves went through the user accounts and stole virtual property. What property was stolen was not disclosed in the report. Doesn't Habbo Hotel warn against this sort of thing like every other virtual world on the planet?

Police have allegedly searched several homes in five Finnish cities, confiscated computer equipment and brought several people in for questioning. The quantity, types and value of the property are not known at this time.

Source: breitbart.com

3 comments

Real Trademarks in Virtual Worlds

October 7, 2009 -

An article on Law of the Level takes a look at whether using real brands on virtual goods in online worlds—by someone other than the trademark owner—could be interpreted as trademark infringement.

A publication of the law firm Sheppard Mullin, the blog was written by Thayer Preece, a lawyer in the firm’s Video Game Industry Group. She begins to answer the question by noting that several real world brands have taken exception to counterfeit virtual goods sold online, especially when the money from these sales line someone else’s pocket.

One way to deal with infringements is to sue. Taser International, Inc. filed a lawsuit against Second Life creator Linden Labs (along with others) earlier this year, which alleged that fake Taser-branded products were being sold in Second Life and infringing on the company’s sales. Taser sought $75,000 in damages but eventually dropped the suit.

Another way to fight the knock-offs is to join the virtual world and pump out your own branded goods. Law of the Level writes that this is the tact Herman Miller took. In response to a number of fake Herman Miller goods offered on Second Life, the designer launched its own official presence in the world and even replaced “fake” Herman Miller products with “real” ones.

What would happen if a virtual world trademark infringement lawsuit made it to court? Breece writes:

At present, there is no legal precedent on this subject. But as the popularity of virtual worlds continues to grow, it seems likely that it will only be a matter of time before the courts make a decision on the issue. In the meantime, it will be up to each brand holder individually to decide how to respond to the emergence of this growing marketplace and its potential opportunities and pitfalls.

6 comments

Don't Sue Me, Bro... Taser Drops Suit Against Second Life

July 25, 2009 -

TASER International has - at least for now - dropped a trademark infringement suit against Linden Lab, which operates Second Life.

As GamePolitics reported in April, the maker of the controversial stun guns, filed suit after it discovered virtual TASER replica items being sold in Second Life as gear for SL avatars (see pic at left).TASER also alleged that its brand would be damaged via association with virtual sex and virtual drug use occuring within Second Life.

Virtual World News reports:

Taser filed a Notice of Voluntary Case Dismissal... and adds that because Linden never filed an answer to the original complaint, the dismissal is "without prejudice" -- meaning Taser could choose to refile at a later date.

4 comments

Sold Your MMO Character? Sweden's Taxman May Want a Cut

July 20, 2009 -

If you're a Swede who has unloaded an unwanted MMO account for a few extra Kronas, the taxman would like a word.

On the other hand, if you're an American who has sold your account to a Swede, the taxman would still like a word.

GameCulture points out a Stockholm News report detailing efforts by Swedish tax officials to come to grips with e-commerce. To that end, the Skatteverket is even taking a look at small fish like gamers:

The Swedish Tax Agency hold that you have to pay tax for selling an avatar from a computer game. The agency has investigated the trading in avatars during a 14 month period and found the advertised sum of avatars for sale by Swedes to be 662 million SEK. But no one has ever declared any income for trading in avatars to the Tax Agency.

But even U.S. citizens could be subject to Swedish taxation on such virtual transactions, according to the Economics of Virtual Worlds blog:

[Note that] a sale has taken place in Sweden if the seller is a Swedish trader who sells [to]... a private person in Sweden or another EC [European Community] country. A sale from a foreign trader to a Swedish trader has also [legally] taken place in Sweden. The same applies if a trader from outside the EC sells services to Swedish private persons.

Thus, even U.S. citizens are subject to Swedish taxes in virtual worlds, as long as one of the participants is Swedish. The implication is that if similar tax rules are adopted around the globe, U.S. citizens could end up owing taxes to Sweden, Japan, South Korea, and other nations (depending on which and how many worlds they are part of) – all because they played some games...

Skatteverket states that gamers should send invoices to each other. It’s unreasonable stuff they’re talking about. The [game] users [typically] don’t know who they’re interacting with...

32 comments

Is Gold Farming Really Banned? Confusion Over China's New Virtual Currency Rules

July 1, 2009 -

Earlier this week GamePolitics covered a story by Information Week which reported that new Chinese regulations on virtual currency would outlaw gold farming.

But there appears to be confusion about whether the practice of gathering in-game MMO currency and then re-selling it for real cash will be affected by the new regulations.

incgamers disputes the report, citing the University of Manchester's Prof. Richard Heeks:

This [new Chinese law] therefore is not about what gold farming clients do: use real money to buy these virtual currencies; it’s the mirror image.  And it’s not about the major trade in gold farming such as World of Warcraft, which relates to other types of virtual currency.  And it’s not about buying/selling in-game items.  And it’s not about the power-levelling of avatars. Bottom line: it’s not about gold farming.

In any case, Dean Takahashi of Venture Beat writes, a ban on gold farming may be difficult for Chinese authorities to enforce:

The practice of trading virtual goods for real money is easy to make illegal, but hard to enforce. The gold farmers may not be affected... because of a technicality. Most of China’s gold farmers, who operate in sweatshops with dozens of fellow farmers, operate on servers on foreign soil. The government can only control what goes on with domestic servers...

The New York Times, which did not challenge the notion that the rules would impact gold farming, quoted Indiana University Prof. Edward Castronova, an authority on MMOs. In lauding the Chinese government action, Castonova offered what, to some, may seem like an alarmist view of in-game currency:

This action shows that at least one government is concerned about the way virtual worlds challenge its control of society. As virtual currencies take over more and more purchasing power, control over the effective money supply shifts from the central bank to the game developers.

8 comments

Report: China Bans Gold Farming

June 29, 2009 -

If you are planning on buying gold for your World of Warcraft character, act quickly. The price may be going up soon because of an official crackdown which should affect availability in a negative way.

Information Week reports that on Friday the Chinese government enacted new virtual currency regulations which, among other provisions, make gold farming illegal: 

The ruling is likely to affect many of the more than 300 million Internet users in China, as well as those in other countries involved in virtual currency trading. In the context of online role playing games like World of Warcraft, virtual currency trading is often called gold farming...

The trading of virtual currency for real cash employs hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and generates between $200 million and $1 billion annually, according to a 2008 survey conducted by Richard Heeks at the University of Manchester.

He estimates that between 80% and 85% of gold farmers are based in China.

30 comments

Sweden, South Korea Eye Taxation on Virtual Items

December 15, 2008 -

Following China's lead, Sweden and Korea are working to clarify tax regulations to include in-game trade of virtual items, according to the BBC.

To be clear, we're not referring to the transfer of goods  based on real money sales of in-game gold and other items. That's a cash business and already subject to tax laws.

The theory - at least in Sweden and Korea - seems to be that since some virtual items are readily exchangeable for cold, hard cash, swapping such goods may trigger a taxable event. Professor Edward Castronova of Indiana University, noted for his research into virtual game worlds, is not a fan of the idea:

I think it's an extraordinarily dangerous development. It's as if every time I played soccer in my backyard and scored a goal, I would have to pay the government three euros. It takes away the game's contribution to human happiness.

But Loyola Law School prof Theodore Seto explained the legal rationale for taxation:

You can exchange your Lindens for dollars or Euros on a floating exchange rate any day at any time, without limit... It's easier to tax virtual transactions than it is to tax real-world transactions. The neat thing about it is, all transactions can be recorded. In the real world, we don't have that...

 

If 'gold' is not exchangeable for currency, and it's contrary to the rules, and they make it technically difficult to make the exchange, then I think we should treat the events in World of Warcraft as games. By contrast, Second Life actively markets itself as a venue for making real money.

10 comments

Dutch Virtual Theft Case Involved Real-world Violence

October 22, 2008 -

The Associated Press reports that two Dutch teens have been convicted of stealing virtual game items from a third boy. All three played Runescape, a popular online RPG. At issue is ownership of two virtual items, an amulet and a mask.

While the ruling was the subject of some mirth in the U.S. gaming press, Antal Princen, a Dutch reader of GamePolitics, wrote in to say that there was much more to the story. The AP simply mentions that the victim was coerced, but Antal says there was some nasty real-world violence involved:

[The media reports] omitted a few important details: The duo not only stole the virtual goods, but actually beat the other kid up and threatened him with a knife. They extorted an amulet and mask. In Runescape they're worth a lot of money and in real life people buy them for real money, which is one of the reasons the judge said it was theft.

 

The boys were convicted for "violent theft". They lured the victim to their house, caught him in a chokehold and kicked and hit him. They used a kitchen knife to threaten the victim. Both thieves showed no regret and didn't acknowledge they did something wrong, which is never good if you find yourself in a Dutch court... The lawyers will appeal.

Indeed, Antal directed us to Dutch website Parool.nl, where we were able to translate the story sufficiently to confirm Antal's account. That being the case, the issue of whether one can steal virtual goods seems to take a back seat to the sheer thuggery of the would-be amulet robbers.

GP: Dank u wel to Antal Princen for the report!

28 comments

Warhammer Online's Gold-Seller Hate Makes No Sense, Writer Argues

October 3, 2008 -

I've been playing Warhammer Online since it launched about two weeks ago and I'm thoroughly enjoying life as a squig herder. Might jump over to The Order on another server though. That Dwarf engineer looks like fun, too.

Right now my greenskin is a bit short on in-game cash to buy gear, but it looks like I'll have to make do. That's because WO developer Mythic is aggressively targeting gold sellers. In fact, Mythic co-founder Mark Jacobs recently wrote, “I HATE GOLD SELLERS WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING.”

Decaf, Mark...

Over at Gigaom, Wagner James Au argues that Mythic's approach doesn't make much sense:

When launching a big-budget online game, it doesn’t strike me as a very good idea to risk alienating nearly a quarter of your user base right out the gate. That, however, is likely to be the consequence of an extreme anti-gold selling policy at Mythic Entertainment...

 

In a study by Nick Yee, a PARC research scientist... 22 percent of players surveyed reported purchasing game gold, with those ages 35 and over most likely to do so... let’s face it: If you have kids and a mortgage, you only have so many hours a week left over to play games.

 

So if Mythic succeeds in driving away gold sellers, it seems inevitable that it will succeed in hurting Warhammer Online’s retention, too. For surely players who like to buy their way out of difficult quests but no longer can are likely to get frustrated and leave for another game.

GP: I've fessed up in the past to buying WoW gold, which led to the most hate mail I've ever gotten. In my case, though, it's pretty much what Nick Yee found in his research. Kids + mortgage + job = less time to play.

 
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Papa MidnightWith GTA5 (to date) failing to even provide indication of a PC release, I'm realising that this might be the first GTA game that I have not played (outside of Chinatown Wars) since the series inception.04/19/2014 - 8:14am
IanCSo im guessing a bunch of edutainment games, which a lot of people elsewhere are going gaga over, dot count as classics? Okay. If you don't mind me, i have a sudden urge to play Putt Putt....04/19/2014 - 6:15am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/04/18/playstation-99-cent-sale-discounts-tokyo-jungle-super-stardust/ Weekend long PSN flash sale. So much stuff is 99 cents for the rest of the weekend.04/18/2014 - 5:59pm
Adam802http://www.polygon.com/2014/4/18/5627928/newtown-video-game-addiction-forum04/18/2014 - 4:14pm
Matthew Wilsonit is a video talking about why certain games/products/consoles do well, and others do not. he back it up with solid research.04/18/2014 - 3:56pm
Andrew EisenI'm not keen on blind links. What is it?04/18/2014 - 3:45pm
Matthew Wilsonthis is worth a whatch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyXcr6sDRtw&list=PL35FE5C4B157509C904/18/2014 - 3:43pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 3: Night Dive was brought to the attention of the public by a massive game recovery, and yet most of their released catalogue consists of games that other people did the hard work of getting re-released.04/17/2014 - 8:46pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 2: If Humongous Entertainment wanted their stuff on Steam, why didn't they talk to their parent company, which does have a number of games published on Steam?04/17/2014 - 8:45pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 1: When Night Dive spent the better part of a year teasing the return of true classics, having their big content dump be edutainment is kind of a kick in the stomach.04/17/2014 - 8:44pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.giantbomb.com/articles/jeff-gerstmann-heads-to-new-york-takes-questions/1100-4900/ He talks about the future games press and the games industry. It is worth your time even though it is a bit long, and stay for the QA. There are some good QA04/17/2014 - 5:28pm
IanCErm so they shouldn't sell edutainment at all? Why?04/17/2014 - 4:42pm
MaskedPixelanteNot that linkable, go onto Steam and there's stuff like Pajama Sam on the front-page, courtesy of Night Dive.04/17/2014 - 4:13pm
Andrew EisenOkay, again, please, please, PLEASE get in a habit of linking to whatever you're talking about.04/17/2014 - 4:05pm
MaskedPixelanteAnother round of Night Dive teasing and promising turns out to be stupid edutainment games. Thanks for wasting all our time, guys. See you never.04/17/2014 - 3:44pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the consequences were not only foreseeable, but very likely. anyone who understood supply demand curvs knew that was going to happen. SF has been a econ/trade hub for the last hundred years.04/17/2014 - 2:45pm
Andrew EisenMixedPixelante - Would you like to expand on that?04/17/2014 - 2:43pm
MaskedPixelanteWell, I am officially done with Night Dive Studios. Unless they can bring something worthwhile back, I'm never buying another game from them.04/17/2014 - 2:29pm
PHX Corphttp://www.msnbc.com/ronan-farrow/watch/video-games-continue-to-break-the-mold-229561923638 Ronan Farrow Daily on Video games breaking the mold04/17/2014 - 2:13pm
NeenekoAh yes, because by building something nice they were just asking for people to come push them out. Consequences are protested all the time when other people are implementing them.04/17/2014 - 2:06pm
 

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