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Transparency for KIDS on moderation practices

October 21, 2009 3 comments

Okay, this is kinda rad.  I’ve been re-examining moderation practices from a user to user perspective lately.  Sometime recently Club Penguin added a new REPORT A PLAYER UI page in their reporting flow.

It used to go: Are you sure you would like to report? > Why are you reporting? > More specific details on why you’re reporting? > Thank you for reporting, perhaps ignore them in the meantime?

Naturally, it wasn’t in those particular words, but its the general concept.  They have now added this page to start the process:

club penguin report a player

That’s pretty rad – simple, informative.

Kids report like crazy – bored, angry, nervous, confused, random, tattling, rebel-rousing, testing, frustrated, etc.  There is a great number of useless reports that come through.  Giving kids a bit of context (also, alluding to the fact that the entire chat log will be reviewed, which includes ALL participants, including that chat: ACCOUNTABILITY) helps redirect their activity and lower moderation “boy who cried wolf” scenarios.

I like it 🙂

p.s. PLEASE remember, when making a virtual world for youth- have users click on other users to report.   In a chaotic situation – it’s much easier to tag an offender as he’s snatching your purse, then ten minutes down the line with some sort of police line up list.  Less responsibility on the memory, more accurate identification.

Makin’ the rounds

June 18, 2009 2 comments

Planet Cazmo’s Virtual Concert Series, which started in November 2008, has been a boon to the virtual world for tweens and young teens: It has captivated audiences, secured a significant amount of press for the world, and driven user stats and growth.

Today the music-focused site adds another notch on its belt by securing former American Idol heart throb David Archuleta for an upcoming concert.

The virtual concert, June 19 and 20, will help promote Archuleta’s new iTunes gift pack and his upcoming US tour with Demi Lovato.

Virtual Worlds News: OMG! David Archuleta Plays Planet Cazmo

First of all:

I owe my blog (and whomever reads it – crickets…crickets…) a huge apology.  Yes, I’ve been a twitaholic of sorts (well, maybe not so much in the last two weeks unless you like seeing foursquare.com updates of me @ airports).

The truth is – I have recently taken a new position at Gazillion Entertainment in San Mateo/San Fran.  Gazillion has been a fantastic fit so far – and a truly remarkable company.  I’m not going to go too much into my position here, being an industry blogger + allowing lots of transparency with job specifics & titles have (not surprisingly) bitten me in the arse a couple times.  Of course, if you happen to located around a cookie or a latte and I (again, not-surprisingly) happen to suddenly appear in search of said-cookie or said-latte, then yes – I will no doubt gush and yammer about my position at Gazillion.  Long story short, folks, I am bloggin’ on this here blog for the sack of industry bloggin’, ye kin?  If not, no worries, as always – just bear with me.

So, the last few weeks have me traveling QUITE a bit.  LA to SAN FRAN (as I’ve not completely relocated as of yet), LA to other cities to visit G’s VW/MMO game studios (weeeee!), LA to Disney World (16th Annual Kid Power Conference), and LA to DC (FOSI – re: COPPA 2.0 & discussion about the Megan Meier Bill).

I feel like a gypsy & I’m starting to befriend various TSA folks.  The TSA in Orlando is currently babysitting my brand new California driver’s license. Le sigh.

So, after all that – twitter has been my easy-going, no-hassle, info source & airport-bored friend.  Limits my ramblings CONSIDERABLE, and that tends to be where I shine, but I still get the info share happenin’, and ultimately, that’s what it’s about.  I actually now have multiple accounts & multiple apps on my iphone (the only account you darlings need know is @izzyneis 🙂 )

But, as I scan my RSS feeds today, I see I’m not alone in makin’ the rounds.  Mr. David Archuleta, amongst other tween super-powers, has been traveling the virtual universe.  I believe it was just a month or two ago when the young crooner was on BuildABearville.com – where others have also graced the beartastic stage, like “Ryan” from High School Musical, etc.  Buildabearville has CONSTANT celeb support for their bear-devoted audience… and MAN, have you BEEN to that world lately?  They’ve expanded quite a bit.  Still heavily branded with store products, but hey – gotta pay the bills, right?

Finding ways to work house-hold brands of popularity into your virtual world can indeed be fun!  KIDS LOVE CELEBRITY – not just individuals, but CELEBRITY… one famous concept that has inpact on the peer system around them.  If they feel like they reach a finger out and touch that celebrity?  .000015 seconds of associated celebrity.  The 25 degrees of Kevin Bacon.  Being able to connect at all, in any weird context, can bring youth closer to that power which they desire.  It’s a little spike of happiness.

Chat rooms have been doing this for as long as chat rooms have been chat rooms.  Heck – people travel miles around to go to malls to see their favorite stars.  I once saw Cameron Mathison (from All My Children – which I have been watching since I was 2 while my mom folded laundry and i slurped on macaroni and cheese) – and, aside from his famousness, Ryan Lavery is hot (sorry, soap-geek-moment).  I digress – anyway, so, Cam (as I like to call him) was at the Decatur Mall in DECATUR, ILLINOIS (otherwise known as that nasty mole in the armpit of the midwest…).  THERE WAS A LINE AROUND THE MALL just to see this semi-celeb of housewife fame.  I nearly passed out as I passed him (he was sitting at a table with handlers at the Sears entrance).

The point is – just cause the character is virtual doesn’t mean kids won’t find enticement & happiness in a celeb gracing their favorite virtual destination.  BUT REMEMBER: OWN IN.  LIke – don’t 1/2 arse a celeb’s appearance, otherwise you’ll lose faith from your users who are keen.  Make it feel as real as you can. You want those users to walk away feeling like they had their moment – their finger touching fame.

Kids have stars in their eyes. They do (heck, I do).  Do them, me, yourself a favor – don’t be the one that dims that star.  Help shine it and keep it bright and in tact.  For as much as some people want to poo-poo Disney… I was a 30 year old girl at Disney World (post-conference), hanging out BY MY SELF, and i shed a tear or two when they played Disney songs about dreams coming true while fireworks (which I don’t like, btw) were shooting like stars over Cinderella’s castle.  For whatever happens in business, or behind the big red curtain of marketing & advertising & money makers – Disney does a damn fine job in polishing stars-in-eyes.  It’s all about the experience, isn’t it?  The full, round, sensory-a-blazin’ experience.  That’s what makes a company that lasts decades on end.

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A Parents Eye View of the Ole Club Penguin

January 21, 2009 Leave a comment

In the middle of a playdate with one of his best buddies a few months ago, my then-8-year-old came over and asked me how to spell “penguin.”

“Penguin?” I asked, puzzled. “As in Mr. Popper’s Penguins?”

“No,” Jake clarified. “As in Club Penguin. We want to play, but we can’t get to the Website.” And just like that, my third grader’s age of digital innocence ended, as both of us dove headfirst into the junior cyber-social world.

And I do mean both of us. Because after Jake went to bed that night (giddy with excitement over the creation of his penguin alter ego — or “avatar”), I decided I needed to find out just what was going on in those millions of online igloos that have kids so addicted.

Club Penguin – Kids Online Games – Goodhousekeeping.com

Here’s an IN-TER-ESTING piece on Club Penguin from a parent’s perspective from Good Housekeeping.  I HIGHLY suggest you check it out.

Look – where ever you find free will, you will find a variety of troubles.  Playground play is playground play, and kids are not going to stop unless you take away their free-will-choice of experimenting in social situations.  You got to be able to find the good in the bad, and move forward from there with honest understandings and expectations.

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What’s interesting in the news today…

January 8, 2009 4 comments


Today’s Webospherical News
Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mattle’s new creative toys for kids
http://i.gizmodo.com/5126064/mattel-ucreate-music-games-capitalizes-on-your-kids-creativity

Major League Gaming’s success
http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.san&s=97881&Nid=50952&p=982048

The need for better metrics in Social Networking, etc
http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.san&s=97934&Nid=50952&p=982048

How would Walt Disney market in 2008?
http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/jan2009/ca2009016_057614.htm?chan=careers_managing+index+page_top+stories

Guitar Hero gets an uber girly guitar (ugly from my girly point of view – very ‘bratz’ ish)
http://www.shinyshiny.tv/2008/12/girly_guitar_he.html

“Interesting” Insights on girl behavior (article titled: Physically Active? Of course not, if you’re a girl)
http://jezebel.com/5124629/physically-active-of-course-not-youre-a-girl

Webkinz Jr coming this spring (p.s. if they want to do this the right way, they’ll make an amazing phone application for parents of preschool kids – simply because phones are now used as grocery store entertainment, etc)
http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2009/01/webkinz-jr-coming-this-spring.html

Really cool phone gadget
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2009/01/video-projector.html


Here’s my thoughts:

1. Thank you, ypulse, for always finding interesting articles like that Girl Behavior article noted above!

2. Webkinz Jr…. The idea of yet another preschool site?  Meh.   I’m not necessarily sure they work yet?  Although, with webkinz-notoriety, it might just do well…?  With the exception of Panwapa & a really cool train-property (not Thomas) site I’ve seen w/ cool things in the works, preschool sites are kinda not worth the buzz – most remind me of Neopets Jr, which is basically just coloring pages and limited gaming.

3. HOWEVER, second thought ramble…… If Webkinz Jr. came out as a PHONE APPLICATION world too? Booya. Parents are just handing over their phones to the wee toddlers in the shopping carts to watch movies or play games, etc. Disney Pixie Hallow had a GORGEOUS game on the iphone that is relatively easy to play (just title the handset to fly high or low). I am TOTALLY going to watch preschool apps for phones. There should be better apps for teen phones from the virtual world sector – I’m not seeing too many that I’m overly impressed with. As for tween phone apps? Right now… I wouldn’t waste the money. Sure, tweens are getting phones by the load – but I’m not necessarily certain that tweens & phones are the healthy sector of the market (in regards to safety, parent approval, limitations, etc).

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The Newest Model: Trading Cards

November 25, 2008 Leave a comment

Sony announced a partnership yesterday with trading card company Topps to create a collectible card game for the upcoming free-to-play virtual world Free Realms. The exclusive long-term licensing agreement will produce a digital card game playable in Free Realms as well as a physical card game for sale at retail. The digital version will launch at the same time as Free Realms with the actual cards hitting stores in Spring 2009. Both will allow players to earn virtual goods for use in the online world. Some items, like exclusive pets, clothing, race car enhancements, wands, house items, and special character effects, will be exclusively available through the actual card packs.

Virtual Worlds News: Sony Partners with Topps for Free Realms Trading Cards

Well no, Izzy, it’s not “new, new”… but it does seem to be the start of a mini-rage.  Bella Sera was one of the first to work it into a virtual world play (forgive me, D&D, Magic the Gathering, Pokemon & you others – but I’m talking about an actual virtual world here).  Chaotic wasn’t too far behind, amongst others like Webkinz and Toppstown (one of my least fave VW’s, mainly because there’s not a feeling of welcome for chicks in Toppstown, and I was a girl who collected Topps trading cards at a kid, but whatevs… clearly they’re going for their top tier target demographic, despite the fact that there are more girls investing in VW’s then boys these days). 

Wizard 101 even worked the idea of trading card gameplay into their MMO play, as is another virtual world I may know <insert grin>.   Club Penguin was the most recent entry into the trading card play – with their new Ninja trading card game (which is all the rage in CP society at the moment… high demand for the Dojo & ninja belts).  CP’s method is (In my opinion) one of the most casual, yet clever ways of integrating that play into the virtual world.  Once again, props to them.

So now we have pay-as-you-go cards for micro buys (or monthly subscriptions), stuffed animals with codes, dolls with USB ports/ “keys”, toys with plugins, subscriptions, micro-brand/license additions, ad models, and trading cards.  Props to Moshi Monster’s old Beta model of access to VW with the purchase of a mopod – a which is a toy that goes on your phone (first VW for youth that had some sort of safe cell phone tie-in, very forward thinking).

It might be cavalier for me to say, but I like the idea of trading cards worked into the overall play pattern that is organic to either the audience or the context/content of the site.  I’ve said it once, and I’ll no doubt say it a million more times – virtual worlds for youth are ex…pen…sive.  Oh, wouldn’t it be grand to have these amazing play patterns free & available for youth to explore and devour and grow in.  I would L.O.V.E. that.  Unforch, it takes an army to build such an experience, and that army needs to survive on more than virtual thanksgiving turkeys for real world din din.  There has to be some sort of money rolling in – and if you can make that less painful for both the parent & the child to swallow, while enhancing the entertainment value of your site?  Then maybe it’s not so bad?

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Heads Up: Sophomore year of Penguins & Coins

November 11, 2008 Leave a comment

Because of the incredible response from so many penguins last year, because we heard from so many of you that you want to do it again, and because you guys worked hard to help change the world last Christmas, the Coins for Change campaign will return this year! 

Coins for Change started with suggestions from many of you over the past couple years that you wanted to do something in Club Penguin to make a difference in the world. And this year it’s going to happen again!

Starting December 12th, you’ll have a chance to donate the coins you earn playing games in Club Penguin to three causes that will help make a difference in the world!

Club Penguin – Community: What’s New

Lookie lookie, whose giving out the cookie?  This was incredible last year, and I love how they made the follow up video to show kids their impact. 

Dizzywood rocked it with The Arbor Foundation (the effects of which can still be seen in Dizzywood’s growing forest).  Many other virtual worlds fresh to the scene (or soon to be) have added an amazing amount of social consciousness to their experience.  Role Modeling a world of good?  AWESOME.

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NY Meet Club Penguin

October 28, 2008 Leave a comment

Club Penguin celebrates its third anniversary! To mark the event, Disney and Club Penguin held a big anniversary party this past Friday in the heart of New York City. Excited fans and their parents could be found waddling around the festivities inside the midtown Manhattan Toys R Us and also across the street in the middle of Times Square.

360blog

Those lucky wee devils over at 360Kid got to spend some time hanging out in Club Pen– AHEM… New York for the 3rd anniversary of one of THE most successful MMO/VW’s eva….

Jealous? Yes, izzy is. 

Well, luckily – the 360blog has nigh on FULL detail regarding the event.  Click that wonderful link above and head over to check out their latest post.

The thing that I think CP does the MOST successfully = the belief in their brand.  NOT just the biz side of it, but the story, the fun, the goofiness… the PLAY.

They drank their own koolaid, and kudos for it.  Sometimes VW’s & the people building them get so incredibly wrapped up in making things “for” the audience, that it becomes making things AT the audience.  If you want to tell a story, the first person to buy in is YOU… and YOU have to believe in it, find some level of enjoyment from it.  Not any 1/2 arsed “for the benefit of the biz” crap.  Buy. In. To. Your. Product.  Lock, stock, and two smoking barrels. 

If you can’t enjoy your VW product for the simplicity & joy that it offers… in ALL aspects, then good luck, bub. 

Anyway – congrats on 3 years, CP 😉

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Eye Spy: Club Penguin Unlockables

October 15, 2008 Leave a comment

The arrival of the new toys is getting closer (just a little over a week away!) and I wanted to give you an update on something you’ll find with your toy when you get one–actually it has been a suggestion from a lot of you in the past.

When you get a toy, you’ll find a coin attached to it. The coin is special for a couple reasons: The first reason is because every coin is different so you will definitely want to collect them! The second reason is because there’s a code on one side that will unlock special items on your penguin account!

coins.jpgWhen you enter your code, you will unlock a very special book that will give you access to a lot of all-time favorite items from Club Penguin that haven’t been around for a long time AND even some new, never before seen exclusive items that you can only get in this book! It will work the same for all penguins (those with memberships and without memberships).

Club Penguin – Community: What’s New

Wowza… how very Webkinz-y and buildabearish!  For some reason, this new development in revenue missed me.
Innnnnnnnnnteresting!

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Pay Day: MMO Stats

October 7, 2008 Leave a comment

There’s been some good number crunching going on at conferences and on the blogosphere to find out the basic economics of casual mmo / free to play companies. From a post a few months ago Jeremy Liew figured that successful MMOGs can expect around $1-2 per unique monthly user. A few of the figures from that post below:

  • Club Penguin: $1.62/mthly user/mo
  • Habbo: $1.30/mthly user/mo
  • Runescape: $0.84/mthly user/mo

    others from outside that article:

  • Puzzle Pirates: $1.50/mthly user/mo
  • IMVU: $1.66/mthly user/mo (from GigaOM)

Those numbers are remarkably consistent across very different types of properties. Habbo hotel is so different from Runescape, one being non-combat and virtual goods based, the other being subscription and heavily combat oriented, that it’s surprising to not see a massive variation between products. We certainly don’t see that kind of ARPU consistency between, say, subscription based music products like Rhapsody and transaction based one’s like Amazon MP3. That made me a little curious to dig in deeper.

brinking – nabeel hyatt: Casual MMOs get between 10-25% of users to pay

Thanks to Nabeel Hyatt for rockin’ it out with this info.  Luvs it.  I would suggest clickin’ that link and checking out the rest of his info yourself.  Very. Worth. While.

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Thinking about the Family: Wizard 101 Subscriptions

September 30, 2008 Leave a comment

KingsIsle Entertainment announced a family subscription plan today for its virtual world, Wizard101. While normally users pay $9.95/month for premium content in the free-to-play world, now families can create accounts for $6.95/month each charged to the same credit card. The goal according to the company is to make it easier for siblings to play together as well as parents and children and grandparents and grandchildren, citing a forum poster who wrote that “I live 1500 miles from my grandchildren…and now this is the game we play. They both think it’s great that their grandma plays with them and they like to brag about it to all their friends.”

Kids worlds have recently begun emphasizing parental use, whether through emphasizing safety and parental controls like BarbieGirls.com, extending a popular brand with moms to kids like Precious Moments, or simply providing opportunities for dual play. It seems to be working: earlier this year Stardoll released user activity numbers showing that moms were almost as engaged as their daughters, with 75% visiting with their children each week.

Virtual Worlds News: Wizard101 Launches Family Plan

Cheers to VWN for once again pulling in great news!

I am a big fan of the Wizard101 site (one of the BEST of 2008).  Sure their community needs a bit of tightening here and there (allowing users to actually feel like they thrive & have school-ties to the kids roaming around – building on the boarding school, friends-are-family themes could make for a really tight, interesting social environment), but overall it is VERY, VERY well thought out, plenty of depth and variety of play, and of course -it’s gorgeous. 

With a site like that – it’s nice to have multiple accounts.  When I think about it – Pirates of the Caribbean Online also gives the opportunity to have multiple “characters” or accounts for their downloadable MMO (I have two: IzadoraRex and then some creepy looking schmo I made when I was bored, who turned out to be hilarious social fun)… perhaps it’s just a few tweaks of lingo and you have a similar idea.  Packaging, packaging, packaging – and then first to the punch.

But again – kudos to Wizards101 for finding what will make parents feel like they’re getting more BANG to the buck. 

p.s. HAS ANYONE NOTICED THAT PIXIE HOLLOW, AKA DISNEY’S FAIRY VIRTUAL WORLD IS UP AND RUNNING?  Ooooo I’ve been playing since Beta.  There’s loads of quirky, cute fun in there!  I’ll have to do a write up soon.  Make sure you check it out. 

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