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Posted in Uncategorized on 2013.05.17
(Disclaimer: I didn’t take this picture. It was taken at an event and I was busy celebrating)
Income (this period) from all AvMans
TB Sales: $17,745 (avg $21.71/purchase, $591.5/day)
Gross Income: $30,085
Peer Review Stats (all time) on all AvMans
Total Submissions: 5341
Total Reviews: 49210 (including 26416 from prior years)
Total Approvals: 2882
Total Cancels: 2394
Total Rejections : 6
SamSyn is almost done with “Global Chat”, which is exactly what it sounds like. It will also include the ability for the System to add events to the chat for things like “Such and Such Event starting in…”, and “Race starting in … in 10 minutes”.
Also, you don’t have to participate in Global Chat at all, if you don’t want to.
Of course it will also include the ability to mute/ignore people who insist on using it to show “LOOK AT ME I CAN TYPE SWARE WORDS ARENT U IMPRESSED?”.
Co-Host Decorating Privileges
We’ll also be rolling out the ability to designated co-hosts to always have decorating rights, instead of “just for events”. This is something folks have been asking for, especially in connection with “Landmarkish” areas in the world. For example, There could pay the rent on a Landmark, but leave it to a more aesthetically talented person to maintain it.
Developer Price Changes
In the near future, we will be making submission fees $1000TB across the board for all types of items. In 99.9% of the cases this is a price reduction – in many cases a significant price reduction. In a few odd cases, it seems to be a price increase, but this is frankly for some items that seemed to be aberrantly priced anyway.
Next up is the “Real Money” system for Developers.
Of course, we’re also going to see if these “How do I find people in the World” changes help people…Find things to do in World. If they do, we can then experiment with advertising again, with the hope new members will “stick”, and generate more revenue than the cost of acquiring them (which is what has happened with every other kind of advertising we’ve tried before).
If those things don’t work, we have more things to try, of course .
Posted in Uncategorized on 2013.04.19
Event, Hood, and Decorating Changes
Based on your suggestions, the following changes are either in, or upcoming:
- “Empty” spots which are truly empty will no longer have a “Populated” icon at all.
- SamSyn is testing a new filter (actually exposing an existing filter) to filter out empty events in the various events pages. This will be controlled by the browser, not the event owner (duh)
- SamSyn is going to work on making it possible for ‘hoods to have permanent co-decorators. This could lead to There owning hoods in some landmarks or important areas and allowing designated members to “maintain” them (decorate, hold events, etc). Currently, a hood co-host can decorate a hood, but the decorations only last for the event, which is suboptimal for this purpose.
- Bruce is working on a script to automatically add Hoods and Zones to the maps – a previously manual process. We of course may need to tweak the “automatic-ness” of this process, but it will be better, and more accurate than the current situation.
We are also looking into Lowering Prices, perhaps on Hood Rental, or Developer Submission Fees. We’re making sure we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot this this one, but lowering fees and subsequently cratering revenue.
Deleting inactive 2D Avatars
We have started sending our warning emails to people who registered 2D Avatars, never subscribed, and have not logged in for many, many months. We’ll be sending out warnings at 30 days, 2 weeks, 1 week, and after we delete the avatars.
Keep in mind that many of these avatars have, frankly, Fake email addresses, and won’t get the mail. We’re not quite sure how we’re expected to warn those folks .
Unclaimed Legacy Avatars will NOT be impacted. They will remain encased in Carbonite.
Of course, if there’s some hole in this process, we have lots of time to change it. What we don’t want to do is give people a license to “Park” Avatar names, especially the “Good Ones” forever, which is what some people have done.
By the way, congratulations to Bruce, who wrote the Avatar deletion script. He accomplished something which the Old There never got around to doing for 10 years. Of course, he and SamSyn got There to run “in the Cloud”, which the old There said “Couldn’t be done”.
We continue to work on:
- Global Chat experiments
- “Real Money” transactions for developers.
Things we’re NOT working on.
We’re NOT working on:
- Events in PAZs. We looked at this many times over the years, and it won’t work. The biggest problem is the fact that a PAZ can be picked up at any time, which includes just before the event, during the event, etc. Also, since you can drop a PAZ in (for example) a thoroughfare, and have a private event in it, you can, effectively block the thoroughfare. On top of that there are many other technical infrastructure problems which would make this difficult and a questionable use of time.
Posted in Uncategorized on 2013.04.12
Besides doing what I can for (or against ) There.com, one of the other things I’ve done is create a Foundation which provides access to robotic telescopes, for free, to students. We’ve had varying numbers of instruments on-line in New Mexico and Australia over the years, and have delivered as many as 10,000 hours of time to students in a year.
Our most exciting project has been the construction of an advanced 1-Meter telescope which will be, again, for student and University use. Now, a 1-meter telescope isn’t very big, but this one will be special because it will employ active optics to improve the instruments resolution. It’s a very cool project, where we get to play with optics, cameras that are cooled to far, far, below zero, and interesting mirror materials like SiO2 (silicon carbide).
It’s been a long project, and we’re not done yet, but the man who runs the foundation took a great picture of a supernova in a galaxy far, far, far away, shown above. Keep in mind this picture was taken with as-yet-imperfect optics.
You can read about the supernova’s discovery here.
This isn’t just pretty pictures – the Foundation has also contributed images and data to scientists studying these events. While many of our students have made contributions to various research projects, this is the first time the Foundation’s had time to do so.
By the way, M65 is 35 million Light Years away, which means this star exploded 35 million years ago, and we’re just seeing it now. Think about that. Oh, and if there were any planets around that star, they’re toast, or probably very tiny particles of toast – that star is 2.05747493 × 10^20 miles away and we can still see it, so it was a pretty big explosion.
In case you’re interested, here’s a picture of one of our observatories and the partially-completed 1M:
Posted in Uncategorized on 2013.04.10
Here’s some follow up to some comments and questions from my last post:
SamSyn has tested a change which will make the “Hotspot” not show up when no one is in a location or event on the map. It seems to work nicely.
However, he did note that when “Zephyr” appears as a Hot Spot, no one was there, but found that people had built something high up in Zephyr, so they showed up as Hot Spot, but, of course, when you went there, no one was there. Not sure what we can do about that, other the the usual suggestion of “Nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure”.
Filtering Zero-Attendee events
We agreed we can do this. There will be some issue that when the filter is used, Events where the host hasn’t shown up won’t appear, but we view that as a feature, not a problem.
I asked SamSyn to gather some data on where rental income comes from. Here’s a slightly edited version of the response:
RENTALS: (next due between 2013-01-01 and 2013-12-31) 92 days of data found
Total Rentals: 812 <– as in 'places currently rented by someone other than us'
Total Income: 26547000 TB ( $14748 ) <– includes lot income, which goes to landlord
Total Income (minus lots): 13615500 TB ( $7564 ) <– our real income from non-PaZ
Total HoodIncome: 7818000 TB ( $4343 )
Total DevIncome: 0 TB ( $0 )
Total LotIncome: 12931500 TB ( $7184 )
Total DevLotIncome: 141000 TB ( $78 )
Total OtherIncome: 5656500 TB ( $3142 ) (There houses and funzones)
* HOOD income of $4343 (to US) is less than LOT income $7184 (to LANDLORD) which means that, on average, hoods are fairly profitable for their landlords. (and if we lowered rates, landlords would be less profitable in absolute, but the same proportionally)
* OTHER income of $3142 includes all thereHouses and funzones, but no PaZes. None of the above reflects PaZ income.
* and again, this is all real income as I removed zones 'owned by us' (where we are just paying ourselves with no net profit)
* I didn't break down the ThereHouses vs FunZones since I am not convinced our zoneTypes are trustworthy to tell the difference (they all started off as type 0 back in the day and only slowly got assigned to real zoneTypes)
So… our most recent month had income of about $10K from subscriptions and $24K from TB sales. Of those TB sales, $4400 went to real estate rent.
So, if we were to lower real estate prices (hoods and lots) by the same fixed percentage, we can estimate its impact on our income.
For example, say we cut the rates in half (hoods and lots so as not to disturb the landlord balance), our hood income would drop to $2200 and we would lose $2200 from our $24K TB sales. (on average, though possibly not in the same month, depending on when people purchased their therebux)
That’s some of the data we use to think through things like this.
Posted in Uncategorized on 2013.04.08
April March Numbers
Income (this period) from all AvMans
TB Sales: $22,379 (avg $19.47/purchase, $745.96/day)
Gross Income: $35,739
As you can see, these numbers aren’t as strong as we’d like. Let’s look at the trial numbers:
TOTAL (since we started, mid-Feb)
NumTrials Attempted: 247
NumTrials Accepted: 245
NumTrials Rejected: 2 (too many uses of same PayPal acct)
NumTrials that converted to subscription: 50 (20.4081632653061 %)
NumTrials that still have a subscription: 40 (16.3265306122449 %)
MARCH (current status of those begun in March)
NumTrials Attempted: 183
NumTrials Accepted: 182
NumTrials Rejected: 1
NumTrials that converted to subscription: 31 (17.032967032967 %)
NumTrials that still have a subscription: 30 (16.4835164835165 %)
FEBRUARY (current status of those begun in Partial month)
NumTrials Attempted: 62
NumTrials Accepted: 61
NumTrials Rejected: 1
NumTrials that converted to subscription: 19 (31.1475409836066 %) <– friendly testers, novelty, or good 60 day trend.
NumTrials that still have a subscription: 10 (16.3934426229508 %) <– this has been pretty constant
So, our trial conversion rate has stayed at 16% for a 3-month "trend", "trend" being used lightly. This is a really good number, conversion wise.
The good news is that the trial system is working.
Conversion and Retention
The problem we (or any other Virtual World, or any other Game, or Product, for that matter) face is conversion, and retention. As you can see, our Conversion rate is actually good for an online product. The problem is retention – will the converted member stay and spend money?
Keep in mind that There has been looking at retention since it opened, and has tried all kinds of things over the years, including:
- Welcome Walkway.
- Adding activities (paint ball, card games, etc) to landing areas.
- Activity-specific advertising and destinations
- Varying sign-on and progress “Gifts” including T$, clothing, etc
While some of these efforts (especially the Greeters) have been successful, none of these have been really successful.
Now, to get this out of the way, making There Free is not the answer. Converting a Free member to a Free member who doesn’t spend money isn’t “Success”. Sure, it might make the World fuller, but that means we spend more money on infrastructure, without a corresponding increase in revenue. And, no, opening There to minors also won’t work, because besides having lots of friendly members who don’t spend money (we have proof of this), we have the additional Customer Service costs and, yes, the D-R-A-M-A.
What we do know is that people who show up with friends, or meet friends, tend to stay. The problem is, if people are off in the World in their Neighborhoods, or Paintball or Racing Zones, the World will look “empty” to the arriving member, or the members who can’t find people. We know the world’s not empty by the CCU numbers, but we also know that people are having problems finding other people.
Again, this is a place where we’ve tried all kinds of things: Map Icons, Current Event Listings, etc, etc. For whatever reason, none have been successful.
So we’re going to try something new. It won’t be very hard to do, and it’s a time-honored tool: Global Chat. World of Warcraft used to have it, Glitch had it (one of it’s best features, I think), and numerous other worlds have had it. It’s a way for people to communicate and have loose sense of presence and community without being in the same place.
Of course, we’ll augment the global chat experience with the ability to post a teleport link (“Come join me here“), links to products in the store or auctions, etc.
And, of course, we’ll provide easy ways to ignore people, especially inevitable potty mouth who defines their existence by talking like a sailor (not that sailor talk is bad, but, seriously, ALL THE TIME?).
Retention is something we have to solve before spending on advertising. I’m sure you all see that if we spend $5000/month in ads, but we get $200/month in revenue from “new members”, we’re not coming out ahead.
Also, we’ve had suggestions that “Lowering the Rent/Price/… of X will triple the world’s population”. Keep in mind, we heard that a lot before (I remember when someone told us the Key To Success was Space PAZ’s – once we did those, millions of members and Aliens would flock to There).
I’m sure we all remember the suggestions that “If you just lowered the price of paintball refills, you’d be indunated with Paintballers and rolling in money”. Well, we got 1 out of 3 there .
We’re doing a little analysis of the contribution of various types of rental to see if it’s worth trying. I think we all agree that cutting our income by 50% or 25% to see if that will help hood ownership would be a very risky proposition.
All that being said, here are our next projects:
- Real Money for Developer Sales (not T$ Buybacks
- Global Chat
- Avatar Deletion Script (this is to reclaim the ’000s of Avatar names claimed, and sat on, who’ve never subscribed. Of course we’ll warn you before we delete an Avatar/Name, but we’re not going to let you camp on it).
- Dedicated destinations from the Welcome Walkway for Paintball, Racing, etc
That’s about it!
Posted in Uncategorized on 2013.04.02
I’ve been waiting for this talk (and a couple of others) to become available.
This young man was under 18, and, not allowed to play There any more, did this instead.
Ok, just kidding, he probably never played There. But you get the idea.
And what have you done today?
P.S. On to those of you who responded “Well, this game sucks anyway!”, I’d hazard that Richard’s game sucked just a teeny tiny bit more.
Posted in Uncategorized on 2013.03.27
Two non-There related posts in a row. Well, no matter.
I ran across this site and thought it was cool. Really cool, in fact.
You know those “Please-Fund-My-Cool-Technology/Art Project by donating just a little” sites? And you always wonder “Wow, why would I want one of those?” (Ok, that’s not fair, a small number of those, like the Pebble Watch, have turned out well).
Well, WATSI is like that, but it lets you give a little to “Watsi enables you to directly fund low-cost, high-impact medical treatments for people in need.”.
So let’s see, $5.00 for a latte, or $5.00 something like this?
Try it and see.
And oh yes, please share this link with a friend: http://www.avaaz.org/en/maldives_global/
One of the best things about There is our legal team at DLA Piper. Not only are they great partners in matters like IP (Intellectual Property and Patents), contract negotiations (when we did things like that) and dealing with various governmental organizations like the FTC and FCC, they are also, like us, well versed in matters of virtual currency.
One of the Government’s big concerns about virtual currency has been around the issue of “money laundering” (let’s leave aside the issue of the amounts involved in There, or any other virtual world for that matter). One of the ways the government controls money laundering is through what’s called the “FinCEN”, or Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. FinCEN uses something called the “Bank Secrecy Act” to require companies who handle money (“Money Service Businesses”) (say, like “banks”) to do alllll sorts of things (like reporting the transfer of large amounts of money).
Fortunately, we’re not a MSB, because we really don’t want to do that.
However, FinCEN just issued new guidelines for companies which use virtual currency. I’ll attach the whole guideline, but the important sentences are:
“Many online gaming companies whose platforms generate a virtual currency for use in the game have taken the position historically that the issuance of the virtual currency is essentially a license to use the game. As such, it does not trigger MSB obligations. This position may still be correct, but the guidance requires that the virtual currency have certain limiting features, including that it (i) not be redeemed for real currency; and (ii) not be transferrable to other players or parties or otherwise exchanged, in order for the gaming company to be exempt from Bank Secrecy Act requirements of an MSB.”
I emphasized (i) because it basically means we, nor anyone else, can exchange T$ for real US $ without becoming a MSB, and therefore subject to FinCEN’s attentions.
I’m not so sure about (ii), but I’m pretty sure there’s an “and” there for a reason – they don’t don’t you to give your T$ to your presumably terrorist and/or drug dealing friend so they can exchange them for T$. They certainly don’t mean to shut down the ability to transfer virtual currency between players in-game if all it can be used for is to purchase an excess of virtual fizzy burps.
In any case, I think this lays to rest the concept of T$ buybacks, or allowing 3rd party exchange of virtual currency. Unless FinCEN changes it’s mind, to conduct such exchanges would require There, or a 3rd party reseller, to become a MSB (Money Service Business). Good luck with that one.
Good thing we have “Real Money” (for Virtual Goods purchases) coming.
Now, I’m sure that some people will see this as There conspiring with the government to surveil your secret lives, control your gun purchases, and report you to the Obama Death Panels. Well, you’re right. In fact, I was there at the gun store holding the bag when Obama was buying those 1.6 trillion rounds of ammunition ordered for “Homeland Security”, which we really know is for martial law and the U.N. takeover of the United States.
And I can see Russia from my house.
Here’s the quote from DLA Piper:
Last week, Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued the attached guidance that may be of interest to certain of your clients. It is designed to “provide clarity and regulatory certainty for businesses and individuals engaged in an expanding field of financial activity … [which is the use of] convertible virtual currencies or mak[ing] a business of exchanging, accepting, and transmitting them.” This release follows the European Central Bank’s release of a working paper on Virtual Currency Schemes in October of 2012.
FinCEN generally regulates anti-money laundering requirements of financial institutions in the US under authority of the Bank Secrecy Act. Among the categories of financial institutions subject to the Bank Secrecy Act is a subset of entities referred to as money services businesses, or MSBs. MSBs must register with FinCEN and comply with certain anti-money laundering, recordkeeping and reporting obligations.
The guidance confirms that users of virtual currency are not MSBs, but those parties who issue virtual currency or put it into circulation and have the authority to redeem or withdraw it from circulation, referred to as administrators, are MSBs. Similarly, parties who engage in the business of exchanging virtual currency for real currency or other virtual currency, referred to as exchangers, are also MSBs.
Many online gaming companies whose platforms generate a virtual currency for use in the game have taken the position historically that the issuance of the virtual currency is essentially a license to use the game. As such, it does not trigger MSB obligations. This position may still be correct, but the guidance requires that the virtual currency have certain limiting features, including that it (i) not be redeemed for real currency; and (ii) not be transferrable to other players or parties or otherwise exchanged, in order for the gaming company to be exempt from Bank Secrecy Act requirements of an MSB.
Here’s the actual FinCEN document: FinCEN Guidance on Virtual Currency