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Call it Habbo Hotel meets Web 2.0. A free, web-based, casual virtual world with 2.5D graphics aimed at teens 13 and up, SmallWorlds, whose public beta launches today, at first looks like a more graphically rich version of the phenomenally successful (if aging) Finnish MMO. Like […] Read more »

The thumbnail on the left depicts a service that, if it fully delivers as promised, has a decent chance to transform the web as profoundly as AdSense. Launching today, it’s the NeoEdge Game Channel, an ad-driven game widget from NeoEdge, the Mountain View startup we wrote […] Read more »

What began last March with Warbook, a no-frills Facebook fantasy strategy game first conceived by an intern, has lead to today’s announcement: Social Gaming Network, a startup still based in a Palo Alto garage, is getting $15 million in Series A funding from a VC team […] Read more »

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A few months ago we made note of the public beta of GameLayers’ Passively Multiplayer Online Game, the immensely clever MMO that turns web browsing into a game. Now with 20,000 registered beta users, it’s finally open for public play — go here to check it […] Read more »

The casual games space keeps getting more interesting. Digital media company RealNetworks said today that revenue from its games division rose 33 percent in the first quarter, to $31.8 million; the company also announced it will spin off its games properties, which primarily consists of cellphone […] Read more »

The best sign that someone’s qualified to run an Internet startup may not be an MBA degree, but level 70 guild leader status, according to the latest issue of Harvard Business Review. “Leadership’s Online Labs” by Byron Reeves, Thomas W. Malone, and Tony O’Driscoll is based […] Read more »

Finally, another game widget worth adding next to Scrabulous. Last week came news that Jeff Bezos invested $3 million in casual game site Kongregate; I just noticed that CEO Jim Greer and his team have added a Kongregate Facebook widget to their service, too. Read more »

Update, May 4: Can Grand Theft Auto IV defeat “Iron Man”? The weekend box office results are in, and as I predicted yesterday, the answer to that question is a resounding “No”. In its first weekend, “Iron Man” grossed $100 million, far more than industry expectations […] Read more »

Here’s the metaverse mystery of the week: This strange new private island with a very familiar name recently emerged on the server grid of virtual world Second Life. Spotted yesterday by Second Life blogger Tateru Nino (and confirmed when I checked the world’s dynamic map today), […] Read more »

Sony execs have been lining up licensing deals with the other major studios for a video delivery service on the company’s Playstation 3 game console that could launch as early as this summer, the LA Times reports today. This would go head-to-head with Xbox Live, which […] Read more »

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GameRail, a startup purporting to optimize latency for gamers, has closed up shop. An announcement posted on the company web site says that: “[T]he market does not appear to be ready to support a standalone network for gaming at this time.” I never had a chance […] Read more »

Apple Store To Go Virtual? That’s the theory of MacNN, at least, citing an Apple patent application published on the US government site last Thursday, somewhat obscurely entitled “Enhancing Online Shopping Atmosphere”. The patent application’s stated goal is to create an online shopping experience that doesn’t […] Read more »

GamerDNA is one of many social network for gamers. But now, thanks to Boston-based Flybridge Capital Partners, the company behind it has $3 million of Series A funding to make it stand out from the pack. Formerly known as, a community site for fans of […] Read more »

Worrying about your household’s carbon emissions is so last month ago– have you given any thought to your avatar’s carbon footprint? That’s actually a serious question: the larger virtual worlds and MMOs require thousands of servers to run, and that expends enormous amounts of electricity. I […] Read more »

If you’re anything like me, you’re following the Democratic primaries with one hand over your eyes, shouting “Oh my gawd, don’t say that!” at pretty much every news item. Now all it takes is a webcam and’s Candidate Avatar Pack to be part of the […] Read more »

Ubisoft said this week that it’s expanding into India. The French multinational, one of the top game publishers (it counts the hits Assassin’s Creed and Prince of Persia among its large, diverse library), is purchasing a game development studio in Pune (near Mumbai) with stated plans […] Read more »

Pop music keeps getting more virtual! Today there’s news that ’80s metal stars Mötley Crüe are releasing a new single via Xbox 360/PS3 download to Rock Band, the epic bestselling multiplayer rhythm game. And it’s just the latest development in what’s fast becoming a larger trend. […] Read more »

While Second Life is frequently described as a 3D web browser, there’s a chance it may be remembered as the (late and lamented) Netscape Navigator of metaverse browsers. That thought occurred to me as I was attending the “Open Source Virtual Worlds” panel at last week’s […] Read more »

I’m still in Manhattan recuperating from last week’s Virtual Worlds 2008 conference; here are some news and trends that I’ve observed: Barbie Rising: Subscription option announced for girls’ virtual world with 2.3 million unique users. Since launching last spring, Mattel’s Barbie Girls has amassed a jaw-dropping […] Read more »

Here’s a small sign of larger changes in the game industry: I got word today from Rockstar Games that April’s Grand Theft Auto 4, the latest installment in their huge (if controversial) thugs-in-the-sandbox franchise, will launch with a “Social Club” (open April 15), a site where […] Read more »

In recent months, DVD-by-mail darling Netflix has been re-branding itself as a video-on-demand service with a strong broadband component, and judging by a recent user survey conducted by the company, they’re contemplating a push into the next-gen game console space as well. According to Reuters, Netflix […] Read more »

A bit like Meet the Spartans for elves and orcs, this video is the fun and slickly-produced first 10 minutes of a feature-length movie created entirely in Vivendi/Blizzard’s World of Warcraft; appropriately dubbed MMOvie, it’s a comedic pastiche of popular movie references (Titanic, Terminator, etc.) threaded […] Read more »

The National Health Service is the UK’s state-funded health-care system, and with 1.3 million staffers, the fifth largest employee in the world. And thanks to a chance meeting at a Texas bar at last week’s SXSW, I discovered they’re about to get avatars for their internal […] Read more »

The Burning Man era of Second Life is over. According to Reuters and a personal announcement on the official blog of Linden Lab, the company behind the user-created online world, Philip Rosedale is stepping down as Linden’s CEO. The company is searching for a replacement with […] Read more »

How serious is Sony about online worlds? For the longest time, execs at their Tokyo HQ kept an arms-length distance from the San Diego-based Sony Online Entertainment, purveyor of Everquest I/II, the recently released Pirates of the Burning Sea, and other PC-centric MMOs and online games. […] Read more »

Last summer we wondered where the games for the iPhone were. Now we know they’re coming, in a big way. Apple last week showed off the details of its SDK, with VP Scott Forstall promoting it as “a great platform to develop games on.” Just as […] Read more »

Fueled by the purchase of Club Penguin and other success stories, the market for virtual worlds designed for children/teens keeps booming. Om just passed me word that Trinity Ventures is investing in Fluid Entertainment, a Mill Valley, Calif.-based developer now working on a “green kids world” […] Read more »

Speaking for the Open Handset Alliance, of which Google is the most prominent benefactor/promoter, Morrill highlighted his talk — “Android: Connecting Your Life to the Web” — at the ETech conference in San Diego this afternoon with an Android emulator running from his laptop. Using a […] Read more »

Om just passed me word that The Sims Carnival, yet another spinoff of the long-running franchise from Electronic Arts, is now selecting users for its closed beta period — to apply, just create an account at the site. Like “EA Land,” the free, web-based revival of […] Read more »

Just out in public beta, GameLayer’s Passively Multiplayer Online Game is a fantasy MMO that’s largely played from a web-based toolbar. But instead of exploring dungeons and killing monsters, as you would in an old-school MMO, there’s a genius twist: You gain points and achievements through […] Read more »

Electronic Arts has redubbed it “EA-Land,” but it’s The Sims Online relaunched for a new era: free, web-based, even some user-created content. Originally launched in 2002 as a multi-player spinoff of their astoundingly popular casual-crossover Sims franchise, EA (ERTS) expected the online version to do blockbuster […] Read more »

I’ve been covering the Game Developers Convention for nearly 10 years, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that most of the news that emerges from there typically doesn’t pan out. Announced games get delayed, partnerships fizzle. Worse, most coverage inevitably skews to hardcore products that, while […] Read more »

When you’re building a virtual world paradise, does it help to do so from an actual one? That was my first thought after reading about Avatar Reality, a startup based in Oahu, Hawaii (the pic is Honolulu’s Aloha Tower as seen from the founder’s office.) Tomorrow […] Read more »

Last year, Om wondered aloud what Lee Crawford at the Venrock and Rustic Canyon Partners-backed startup TwoFish was up to. Well now we finally know: Twofish Elements, billed as a “turnkey solution” for companies with online worlds and game networks that want someone to handle in-game […] Read more »

Forget about Lonelygirl, Tay Zonday, or any of them — as of this week, the biggest grassroots viral video star to break out into big-time mainstream TV is Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw. At least that’s how I interpret the news that the X-Play show on G4, Comcast […] Read more »

The vast majority of people — 90 percent, to be precise — will watch ads if it means they get to play games for free, according to a report presented by RealNetworks at the Casual Connect conference in Amsterdam. Almost 90 percent of the 1,500 players […] Read more »

Last election cycle, a politician’s own ill-chosen words became a viral video that cost him his candidacy. This November, will a politician get undermined by an ill-conceived viral video made by his own supporters? That’s the thought I had after watching “Yes We Can“, a new […] Read more »

Want to know how online games are going to make money in the post-World of Warcraft era? The GigaOM Show recently sat down with Joshua Hong, co-founder and CEO of K2 Network, the company behind Gamersfirst, a free-to-play game network that boasts some 4 million monthly […] Read more »

The developers of Portal, the bestselling multiplatform game released last year, have confirmed they will be adding to it — though no details were provided because the details are still being worked out. A tremendously popular title with hardcore gamers, such an announcement would typically come […] Read more »

If there’s one thing gamers love more than pwning their opponents, it’s publicly bragging about it afterward. That’s the dynamic that should help popularize GameStrata, a new social network for gamers launching this week that’s backed by seed money from “top-tier venture firms in Silicon Valley,” […] Read more »

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