Thursday, October 23, 2008

Women kills husband in an online game, arrested

Online games where people live in a virtual reality using 'avatars' have become wildly popular, with millions using such games. But if people think that online worlds are a more utopian alternative to the real world, they are mistaken. There are the same kind of emotions, same kind of strange behavior, same weaknesses that exist in real life; they are making their existence felt in such online games as well. Consider the case of this lady who was married in virtual reality to a person who actually lived more than 620 miles away. One day she found herself divorced, and this unnerved her so much that she decided to kill the 'avatar' of her online husband (no implication in real life, but his online character died):

A 43-year-old Japanese woman whose sudden divorce in a virtual game world made her so angry that she killed her online husband's digital persona has been arrested on suspicion of hacking, police said Thursday. The woman, who is jailed on suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data, used his identification and password to log onto popular interactive game "Maple Story" to carry out the virtual murder in mid-May.
"I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning. That made me so angry," the official quoted her as telling investigators and admitting the allegations.

There have been other cases like this, with people swindling virtual money (with this virtual money capable of being converted into real currency, this is a crime), people objecting when their spouses spend too much time in these games or get married in the virtual world to somebody else, and so on. As time passes by, the probability of such incidents happening would increase.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Google launches Adsense for Games

Google is always on the lookout for how to keep on increasing its ad portfolio. Getting ads into more and more platforms, into different devices, and accordingly getting a higher amount of revenue is what Google has always been interested in. Its corporate acquisition program has also been geared towards this effort, buying more and more companies that it believes can help it in its ad serving platform.
The popularity of online Flash based games has been soaring over the last few years, with usage figures soaring. For a long time, there was a feeling that Google will jump into this space, and the acquisition of Adscape Media in 2007 increased this feeling into a near certainty. The ongoing Beta by Google in this space, involving some of the Game developers since earlier this year made the intention clear:

More than a year in the works, Google finally launched its in-game advertising platform Wednesday. Called AdSense for Games, the platform will offer advertisers access to millions of Web-based Flash games. The in-game advertising market is small. The games industry scored only $1 billion from advertising and subscriptions in 2007, according to research firm Parks Associates. Google's entry is expected to make it explode.
Google's new ad platform, which grew out of its 2007 acquisition of Adscape Media, has operated in beta since early 2008. Game developers like Konami, Playfish and Zynga participated in the beta, but now other developers and publishers will also be able to apply to the program. The most prevalent ads throughout the company's beta test were short video spots from Esurance, but the network will also provide contextual and text ads.

Some of the success stories from developers using Adsense for Games has made the likely success of Adsense for Games more of a certainty, and is likely to increase the space between Google and its competitors in the Ad space.

Another iPhone attacker: BlackBerry Storm from RIM

Ever since Apple came out with the iPhone, and made it a tremendously hot selling gadget, most of the other providers of smartphones have been jealous of the success of the iPhone, and have been casting around for a successful product that could appeal to people. At the same time, it has been difficult going for them, there have been a number of phones that have been launched that have been advertised unofficially as iPhone-killers, but none of them have managed to stand upto the marketing might of the iPhone.
Here comes another of these devices. At some point, RIM realized that its safe world of selling gadgets to office workers was under threat; the iPhone has started acquiring acceptance among office IT administrators over the world; this is threatening the sale of devices of RIM:

Research In Motion is taking on Apple's iPhone 3G head on with the introduction of the touch-screen BlackBerry Storm. The much-awaited smartphone sports many of the features of Apple's handsets, and even outshines it in certain categories. The touch-screen smartphone may give Verizon Wireless a legitimate rival to the iPhone 3G, and it may help stem the loss of subscribers to AT&T.
The Storm has 3.25-inch touch screen that has a 360 by 480 resolution. Like the iPhone, the Storm has support for multi-touch interface, but RIM's device will have haptic feedback for its virtual keyboard, and it will be capable of cut and paste. The keyboard will have RIM's SureType layout in portrait mode, and it will be a full QWERTY layout in landscape orientation.

It will be a tough call. Getting consumers to switch from the ultra cool iPhone to the dull RIM Blackberry phones (most Blackberries have the reputation of being thick, wide and very boring). It does have several advantages over the iPhone, but will not likely appeal to normal consumers. That is a big killer, with trying to compete on the office platform / business user only. Does not give it the volume to compete with a phone that is spread over the entire consumer buying span.