Sunday, February 12, 2017

VR/AR for Beginners

Pioneers 2016 Vienna

The Danger of Echo Chambers and Value of Disagreement


The World is a Game


Friday, June 13, 2014

E3: So Long, We Hardly New You Edition



When asked, I told people I started this blog as a cathartic outlet.  I didn't really care if any one read it, and I wrote when I had something to say.  People started to read.  I mean, who doesn't like to watch a good train wreck. There was a period of time I had a lot to say, and after a while the compulsion was gone.  I guess it worked.  I catharted.   Or so I thought. This morning I saw this quote from Mike - boy do I miss Doug Lowenstien - Gallagher: 
"The video game industry's explosive growth and technological innovation were front and centre at E3 2014," said owner and manager of E3 Michael D. Gallagher.
"Video games are the most innovative and engaging force driving our culture and entertainment experiences the world over. Congratulations to our incredibly creative members, partners, exhibitors, and the hundreds of millions of gamers who engaged with the show online and through social media."
He was trying to say this E3 - the one where I could talk on my phone from the show floor and haul a double wide trailer through the generous aisles - was growing and more successful than E3's of the past and that it somehow represented the game industry.   I would try to characterize the statement but I am not familiar with the word to use when "delusional" fails to describe the gap between one's perception and the reality raining down around them and drenching them in its cold wetness until the moisture renders their fingers and toes are indistinguishable from raisins and the cold would place their nipples above diamonds on Mohs scale of hardness.  Not a single publisher with a game in Apple's top 10 grossing was represented on the show floor, and if you take out EA and Disney, there is nothing in the top 50.   While Wargaming was there, as they are moving to console, no Riot, no Valve or any other significant PC publisher.  We were left with console, which is a fantastic market, but one that could not be characterized as explosively growing since shortly after my son was born - he is on his way to college now. E3 remains the useless dick waving display it always, but sadly, the dicks have gotten much shorter.   All the big ones were too busy making money and people happy to attend.  While I do not know exactly who the 40 plus thousand people were in attendance, I am comfortable positing a majority were there only out of momentum or the need to find a place to kill time around Michael Pachter's party.  It does not have to be this way. 

The road map to success is clear.  I wrote about it six years ago because I saw Comic Con doing it right. It was not really tough, they started with a goal "have a reason for being." 

The Con organizers realized they had a rabid fan base, and with the advent of the Internet, and more specifically, blogs, the fans had a voice. Over the course of the next ten years, they transformed the event from the place to see the new comics, to the most significant pop culture event in the world. From a comic lover's point of view, the Con lost an awful lot. Some may even say it lost its soul. From an economic perspective it moved from the realm of curious oddity to can't be missed launch event. Seeing as E3 never had a soul, there is nothing to lose. The biggest reason for the disparate treatment of the same issue - the Con actually likes its consumers and decided to cater to them. Even if the exhibitors feel the need to main line Purell after a day of hand shaking and autographs, they still know where their bread is buttered. 
In 2009, probably not inspired by my post, Gamescom started up and had a radical idea.  Let the people who love games come in and see the games.  They, like the Tokyo Game Show, have a public day.  As a result, the conference is exploding.  Publishers show up to let the public see the games and promote them to the media.  Just like E3 . . . . oh yeah, that's right, only members of the game industry who already know about every game on the floor are allowed in to E3.   Gamescom also welcomes the media on site to broadcast live.  Just like E3 with MTV and Spike . . . oh yeah, that's right, we threw them out.   You can watch the E3 stuff on Twitch, the web based channel dominated by games like League of Legends and DOTA2, which were not represented at E3.  It seems not all circles are virtuous.  

PAX takes it one step further actually embraces the culture surrounding games with the public.  As a result,  games are launched there, investment is made and business gets done because everyone is there.  Contrast this with E3 who alienates the public and increased friction by requiring ID to be shown along with my FREE ticket.   Day one, no ID.  Day Two, "just show me a business card," Day 3,  "You need a photo ID."   Admittedly, I have authority issues, but being late for a meeting in the back of the hall I flashed the guy a stack of my business cards and when he asked for photo ID, I had to ask if he really thought I would be walking with a badge and a stack of matching business cards for a guy who was not me.   The guy blue screened for long enough for me to just walk in.   I realize video games are just one of the myriad of reasons the terrorists hate us, but does anyone think they wanted to blow up the Activision booth?  What other reason could there be to stop a person with a verifiably authentic badge from walking in to see game the publishers brought to the show to share with as many people as possible?

It is nice to see friends from out of town, but I do that at GDC, DICE and Nite to Unite.  The parties are a lot of fun and often impressive, but by the third day the same people in a different venue becomes stale.  The show floor is a great place to see upcoming games, the 40k + people who marveled at the Dead Island 2 trailer are much more valuable than the 2 million who watched the same thing on line in the first day.  Oh yeah, they are not.    Maybe this is why so many publishers decided not to show up, and those who did left most of the staff at home.

I am afraid E3 had a great life and it is time to let it die and rest in peace.   Like an ailing grandparent,  It is increasingly costly to maintain, requiring an ever increasing amount of time and attention and suffering a declining quality of life.  Our continued life support is driven by our own selfish need to maintain the familiar world we know and keep happy memories alive, but the patient is suffering.   It is time we either invest in the transplant the patient needs to enjoy a high quality of life, or pull the plug and let it die.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Telescreens In The Home - Kinect: I Am Not Paranoid, Someone is Watching Me Edition



Maybe cliche' by now, but still creepy . . .  

Quote from 1984 About Telescreens

"The telescreen recieved and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever the wanted to. You had to live- did live, from habit that became instinct- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
-1984, Book 1, Chapter One, George Orwell

Quote from Katherine Boehret Allthingsd review about Xbox One with Kinect:

A Skype video call to my mom prompted a “Wow!” from her as she admired the quality of the picture, which she described as amazing. As for audio, she said she could hear me just as clearly when the loud, humming central heat clicked on in my house. As I moved around the living room and talked to my mom from six different places, the Kinect camera panned to follow me, and even zoomed in on my face for the best possible picture. I had a similarly good experience during a call to someone else who was using the Xbox One’s new Kinect.

Friday, August 23, 2013

GameStop Hosed Me Today: How To Fix GameStop in 6 Easy Steps Edition




Both of my regular blog readers keep asking why I do not write more.  It is easy enough to tell my mom to stop nagging, but I still answer to the other one - even though his English is not so good.  That dear reader, is customer service - something GameStop sadly lacks.   I realize the global nature of the statement and should explain it is not entirely true.  I never met anyone at the top of the company who is not gracious, a pleasure to deal with and painfully conscious of the customer relationship.
 Unfortunately, those are not the people we deal with when we buy a game.  The stores are run by managers drawn from the mold of The Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons and choose to operate on an entirely different level.  Sure, they serve a customer, just not  the ones who want to buy a game.

It is very hard to find stores carrying a wide selection of games any more.  This creates a wonderful opportunity for a store brand itself as a game focused operation and encourage people who want games to come in and buy them. As a simple guy I still believe GameStop is such a place.  Unfortunately, every time I test the hypothesis it is proven false.  

I first encountered the problem when I tried to purchase The Beatles Rock Band.   The title was one of the most heavily promoted in the history of games.  There was even a New York Times Sunday Magazine feature about the release.   Having never run a great big retail chain selling games, my simple mind thinks this is a great opportunity to take advantage of the public coming into the store for the first time to buy a game.  The mainstream press is featuring a known brand and for the first time, we will have it.  Once these customers who are otherwise very expensive to reach are in the store, we can get them into powerup, upsell and otherwise connect in ways we never connected before.  Instead, the Comic Book Guy who was standing in front of a pile of the fresh and sparkly new copies of the game told me they were sold out.   They were only fulfilling pre orders.  

I sometimes still stop at GameStop because it is on the way to Best Buy and I have about a 50/50 chance of being able to pick up a game within the first week of release - I never have a problem at Best Buy.  You may ask why I continue to go to GameStop.  I promise you it is not for the aggravation, I genuinely want to support the store.  What is good for GameStop is good for the industry.  I know I rant about used games to anyone who will listen and most people who would rather not, but the company is not only a bell weather, but a critical pipeline for retail sales.   Please GameStop, help me to help you. 

Today I went into buy Splinter Cell.   Standing in front of a dozen copies of the game, the junior Comic Book Guy told me it was sold out.   

"But there are a dozen copies right there on the shelf." I said naively. 
"Those are all reserved for pre orders." he replied not looking up from the important thing he was doing on the store computer. 
"But they are all right there on display and have not been picked up."Comic Book Gal, Lanara the store manager stepped in to explain "We called all of the customers and they told us they are going to pick them up." 
"But we are outside the 48 hour window and the policy is to release the pre orders after that time."  
"Not mine. As a service to my customer I hold the game for them if they say they will pick it up."  
"But if you sell the game to me, you will do two turns from the same facing.  I will buy the game and they will buy it when it comes in.  You say customer service, but you are providing an accommodation to someone who chose not to comply with their end of the pre order commitment, over a new customer who will otherwise be turned away."  Yes this is way to much time spent in the store.  I need a hobby. 
"I choose customer service over revenue and I am sure everyone in corporate would agree."

Somehow I do not think so.  If I pre ordered a game, did not pick it up, and was pointed to this policy: 
Product Pickup
As release dates change frequently, we cannot guarantee arrival dates. You will be contacted by the store, at the phone number you provide, when the product arrives and is available for pickup. Items not picked up within 48 hours may not be available due to the high demand for new releases. Your name will be placed on a waiting list at your request, and we will contact you when we receive more. If the product is not picked up within 48 hours, you authorize us to charge you a $5.00 fee to cover the cost of shipping and handling to the store.
I would probably rethink my behavior and I chose to pre order again, I would pick it up on time.  As a new customer if I walk in and I am treated like someone who is not a member of the club just because I went in to purchase a very heavily promoted game, I would take my business to Best Buy.

Lanara's behavior hurts the store on a number of levels. It may sound obvious, but GameStop is in the business of moving units.   I would completely agree with her Nordstrom's like level of customer service - if there was no stated pre order pick up policy.   The policy is in place because GameStop is in the business of moving units.  They must move units to generate revenue and cover the outlay for the initial shipment of the product, but equally important, the sooner the unit leaves the shelf the sooner it comes back to be resold as used.   We are not talking about single unit because someone ran into car trouble or could not make it over.  It is over a dozen.  This indicates a pattern of behavior on both sides of the table which must be larger than a single game.  Her "customer service" led to a malaise about the pick up window, leading at least a dozen customers to feel they can come in whenever they want.  If we look at the aggregate number of games moving through the store and add up the aggregate number of days they remain on the shelf despite willing purchasers and knowing the pre order customer would likely buy another copy from the next order, we are talking about a substantial revenue hit and carrying cost of the games before high margin resale.  Worst of all, it is simply not customer service.

When she called it "her" store and told me she could operate it as she pleased and chose customer service over revenue, I had to wonder where the customer service was happening.  I am not talking about her not playing "the customer is always right" - although I was - it is the state of the store.   Call me old fashioned, but customer service would
dictate a store should not look like a 12 year old boy's bedroom and smell like my grandmother's basement.  I should not see empty shelf facing, broken faded standees, a bargain bin full of plain white packaged used games with handwritten names and a countertop you would not touch with Lysol mittens.   I have not even gotten to how they treat the customer.

I am not talking about what they said, or even they way they said it.  It was they did not say.  Instead of "the game is sold out" and ending the conversation to return to the urgent computer matter in the store which was devoid of all other customers, how about "the game is sold out but we will have more in stock next Tuesday. I would be happy to take your pre order and hold one for you to make sure you get it."  Or, "the game is sold out but I can see on line that it is available at this other location 2 miles away."  This is neither the first time this happened, or the execution of cold fusion.  This is a situation they encountered before and can be pretty confident they will encounter again.  Does the guy not know when he will get a new shipment?  You may ask why I do not just pre order.  It is probably a character flaw or premature toilet training, but I just cannot make the commitment.   Not commitments in general, I have been married 23 years, just that one.

GameStop grew, thrived and now survives on the core gamer.  This is no longer enough.  The people who work in the store are cultivated and allowed to act, talk and maintain the store reflective of that customer base.  Unfortunately doing so alienates the other 80 percent of the public who would like to purchase a game.  Catering to the core gamer who chooses to pre order is an increasingly dangerous business at a time when game purchasers migrate to digital download.  The focus has to be on the broad audience of walk ins who did not anticipate the release 3 months ago.

In his 1996 book, Being Digital, Nicholas Negroponte wrote that everything happening over wires would move to the air and everything in the air would move to wires.  He was talking about satellites and cable lines, but change "cloud" for "air" and "store" for "wire" and the thought is painfully applicable to the game business and GameStop's opportunity.  GameStop's core consumer, the one who pre orders and turns in and buys used games, will shortly be moving to the cloud.   The company believes this console launch will be the biggest in history, yet it is still catering to those customers through physical disks.  GameStop will have a great quarter, but it is like gas stations selling Teslas.   Every purchaser of a next generation console is getting a free ticket out of GameStop.  If they care enough to buy a new console at launch, they are savvy enough to download their games in the future.   The core consumer is moving to the cloud, but this is not the end of GameStop.  There is still a role for the company with a mailing list of 18 million and 80% of the purchasers of games walking through their store every month.  But they have to grab the opportunity before the second number goes away.

Customer acquisition is the lifeblood of the game business and the cost is increasing exponentially with the growth of competition and the silence of digital distribution to the physical world.   GameStop is sitting on a tank full of whales in a world while everyone else trying to harpoon them in the open ocean.   Every person on the mailing list paid to purchase a game.  Every person opted in to receive game information.  They just do not get it.   If GameStop can unify the on line distribution systems as fan.tv did for video and create the horizontal connections within their community to allow for recommendations and trusted referrals, it can be the one site to rule them all.   They will still be in the business of selling games, but they get rid of that pesky inventory thing and collect only high margin affiliate fees.  If they want to see how this works, take a look at greenmangaming.com, it is a startup that is eating GameStop's lunch.

You may think this is all very nice, but what about the stores.  Well, that is the other half of the Negroponte parallel.   Right now hardcore goes to the store and the mainstream orders through iTunes. in the very near future, the casual and midcore will still be using 360s and PS3s and will still be buying disks.   They will also be more likely to walk into a mall based game store to understand what this game thing is all about. Lanara was right.  Customer service is key, they just do not have any.   Just as Apple used impeccable customer service to bring technology to the mainstream and rise like a phoenix from the ashes of brick and mortar, GameStop can lead the market for games.   More people are playing games than ever before and none of them know which game to buy next.  GameStop should be there to provide the best, curated experience.   There is no good reason for customers to go to an Apple Store over than purchasing on line or at Best Buy, but they do because they are made to feel welcome and knowledgeable people talk with them.  If people feel welcome to walk into the store, they will and they will be on ramped into the GameStop community.

People seem to like lists, so here are some suggestions in list form:

1) Clean the stores.

 It will be expensive, but you cannot afford to not do it.

2) Curate the experience.

First there has to be an experience to curate.  Richard Branson revolutionized record retail by making customers feel welcome to stay.  He put sofas in his stores and encouraged them to listen to music.  People who listened purchase more.   A game in a box is no fun.  A game running in the store is fun.  That is what games do.   Encourage the consumers to stay and hand mom and iPad - they type you are selling now - to show she can have fun playing games too.

3) Welcome new customers.

Train employees to engage customers to determine tastes and goals.   One major retailer operates an internal competition based on employee's product knowledge gained before work, relevant questions asked of customers and follow up.   The store can engender loyalty by educating the customer about hardware and software purchases.  The staff can become the game geniuses.

4) Connect the community to each other.

While the world is going digital, GameStop is not.  Many sales functions moved on line, but there is no community support.  The company continues to broadcasting radio show performances over television.   Digital does not mean catalogue, it is bidirectional and horizontal.  Let the consumer communicate with the store and each other.  Not just forums, but value.   Why is Gameinformer.com separate from GameStop.com and why do the forums look and sound like they are stuck in 1999?  How did Twitch.tv happen without them looking?   Tens of emails go out every week to loyal customers why don't you introduce them to each other.  Facebook, Google, Amazon and every other modern company is valued on access to a customer base, why do you let them walk out the door and not talk with them?

5) Start a continuity program.

In the old days we had Columbia House who sold us 12 records for a penny so long as we promised to purchase an equal number at full price over the course of the next two years.  Guthy Renker and Beachbody Fitness make hundreds of millions by getting customers to make long term commitments to content they do not even use.  The closest thing GameStop gets to this kind of program is a used game bundling program  but this targets the wrong audience and does not create recurring revenue.  This holiday season every mom should see an opportunity to buy a dozen games for USD 10 and make a commitment to buy four full priced games next year.  Instant liquidation of back catalogue used games and creation of predictable revenue.  Isn't this better than trying to move used games to people who are interested but cannot find the game in the limited stock of back catalogue spread amongst all of the stores and get commitments for multiple titles rather than a one offs.  

6) Stock games.

We understand your the sale of new games is merely a financing tool for building a stock of high margin used games, but right now you are playing it just a bit too cute.   According to Lanara the manager, pre orders are used to determine the number of games to stock.   She said the company stocks to pre order.  This is perfect for a distribution warehouse, but kind of silly for a public facing retail operation.  Please go back to the old days.  Extrapolate the size of the inventory from the pre orders.  You know very well how many units will sell beyond the pre orders, so just stock a few more.

This is the part where I am supposed to tie it all together with a pithy comment and thoughtful outro.  Sorry, I got nothing.  

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Gamification and Beyond: Posting of a My Talk in a Post Edition




I saw a good friend of mine who is very smart and I respect very much - he still finds the time to talk with me though.   He told me he likes my blog, but asked a question he said he hoped would not offend me. "Do you write your blog for yourself on in the hopes of gaining an audience?  Because if you write them for an audience, you really should have a point."   I may be paraphrasing a bit, but it came out like that in my mind.  It was kind of a funny question because I never really thought about writing for anyone else.  My blog is completely self indulgent and admittedly, often only finds entertainment or genius at the point of creation.   The blog is actually a permanent record of the thoughts I find fascinating, and often the expression is only intelligible to me.

Along the same lines, when Ken Rutkowski asked me to speak to his METal International group, I was honored, and excited by the opportunity to entertain - myself.   Because the only thing I like more than reading what I write, is listening to myself talk.  He asked me to talk about the game business.  I spoke about history, evolution, transmedia, gamification, sponsorship, cable, set top boxes, meeting Steve Jobs and a bunch more.  This talk is nothing like a TED talk in that it is 3 times longer, and 100 times less change the worldy.   But it is entertaining to me. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

On Ownership: Game Objects Are Like Poison Mice Edition




Last week I read an article about the US Department of Agriculture's decision to parachute poison mice into treetops to kill tree snakes in Guam.  The tree snakes killed all of the birds on the island and the USDA is concerned the snakes may be able to migrate to Hawaii.   This reminiscent of all of the times a species was introduced to wipe out another, and it went terribly wrong.  The article moved through a series of curiously inappropriate connections in my mind and got me thinking about digital object sales. I cannot tell you why, but I a promise you it is much more of a curse than a blessing.   Our perception of digital objects and willingness to pay for them is evolving much more quickly than our understanding of the impact of the market and I am afraid they will get a foothold in our world before we know how to control them.   Oh yeah, don't worry about the poison, it is Tylenol which is just as useful for killing black tree snakes as it is for killing a headache.

Remember when it was really nutty to think someone would pay money to buy an game object?  If you don't have to remember and still think buying a digital t shirt to put on your avatar is kind of lame, keep reading, you are proving my point.   We are evolving, and it is a good thing.  DVD racks are ugly and building book shelves is surprisingly expensive.

In law school they taught me ownership is not a single right.  It is more like a bundle of sticks.  One stick represents possession, another the right to modify, another the right to collect revenue, and so on.   The aggregate is infinitely divisible and definable by contract.  We used to think the possession of a physical object was the paramount attribute of ownership.  No, even you don't think that way anymore. The digital era changed us.

If you think back in the dark recesses of your minds to the pre-kindle and pre-iPod days we devoted space in our house to collections of analog bits.   Records, CDs, DVDs and books were all displayed in the common areas.   We were buying the ability to access the content whenever we pleased, but also created and satisfied and secondary, and often primary need to display.  Your collection became an indicia of taste.   You may have even been driven to put books or DVDs out you never read or watched and hidden others to avoid the notion your taste may be odd or worse yet, mainstream.   You may think I am talking about porn, but I was thinking Grease - record and DVD, Bee Gees and Abba.  Digital access changed all that and is in the process of changing it more.

Devices like the iPod and the Kindle provided us with the access to the content we wanted and sharable playlists and friend notifications from applications like Spotify and Pandora allow us to display our good taste to people who would have had to come to our home or read our t shirts in the past.   Now we know the only sticks we really need from the bundle are access and display, not physical possession - and this is changing everything.  The evolution of a mindset based on holding physical embodiments of our media (or as George Carlin called it "stuff") to one of access to utility is driving growth of the digital object market at exponential rates.





The concept of physical possession separated from ownership is not new.   We applied it for years to the two most expensive purchases most people ever make in their lives, our homes and our cars.   I have possession of my home.  I can do whatever I want with it and invite whomever I please to access it.  I can also block anyone I please from access.  Feels a lot like ownership.  But my ownership is represented and dependent upon some analog bits in a file cabinet in a city called Norwalk, California.  I have never been to Norwalk, California.   But if anyone questions my ownership, or I want to sell my home, I need to put a new piece of paper, with my signature verified by an independent third party, in a different file in Norwalk, California.  I have possession and apparent ownership, but I do not have possession of the indicia of ownership.  The same can be said of my car.  I have the right to use and possess, but the actual indicia of ownership is on some analog bits somewhere in Sacramento, California.    Since the dawn of property ownership, we accepted possession as something separate from indicia of ownership.  The digital model is simply a reversal of the model.

If I am playing League of Legends, I am able to buy skins, champions and other objects that will appear to other players in the game.  The objects I buy have no impact on my power or abilities in the game.   In the early days this sounded strange to non players - ok maybe it still sounds strange today - but the migration to accept a digital champion in place of an action figure is no different than having music on an iPod instead of on my shelf.   Like my music collection, I have utility of my objects in the game, so I get to enjoy looking at objects that please me.  Also like my music collection, I receive a social benefit by the display of status associated with the object ownership.   Like a house or a car - in reverse - the object exists on a far away server, probably not in Norwalk or Sacramento, but indicia of ownership resides with me.  It actually makes more sense.

This evolution which started with music and is spreading like wildfire through the universe of games.  In 2002 The New York Times saw the ability tell digital objects as newsworthy.  Those wacky gamers were willing to pay money for a collection of words in a game called Gemstone.  But the practice was not limited to Gemstone and what started as an underground market quickly grew into an accepted practice and then even started to be woven into the fabric of certain games.   It is not stopping there.  Zynga took the people who unknowingly accepted the music "purchased" from the iTunes store as fungible with CDs and got to pay for digital objects in their games, thereby paving the way for broad acceptance of microtransactions.  So broad, the purchase of game objects, many persistent, is the not only acceptable, but the leading method for profiting from mobile and on line games.  This leads to a concern I raised in a post five years ago which remains unanswered.

On the one hand we want the consumer to accept the purchase of the game object, as they do the purchase of a song from the iTunes store, or a coffee cup in the real world.  On the other, we are not ready to give them enough of the stick.  They are missing the access to relevant information pertaining to value stick.  The rights and remedies side of digital object ownership is lagging distantly behind the willingness to exchange value to own them.  In the original post I wrote:
My corporations professor, Hugh Friedman, taught us how difficult it is to actually spot a security, but he gave us the definition contained in the United States Code. "SECURITIES - An investment in an enterprise with the expectation of profit from the efforts of other people." Here is another definition I found on line: "Securities are documents that merely represent an interest or a right in something else; they are not consumed or used in the same way as traditional consumer goods. Government regulation of consumer goods attempts to protect consumers from dangerous articles, misleading advertising, or illegal pricing practices. Securities laws, on the other hand, attempt to ensure that investors have an informed, accurate idea of the type of interest they are purchasing and its value." The definition is intentionally broad and is meant to apply to a lot of things, to protect a lot of people. Interests in condominiums, farm animals, land and oil rights, have all been determined to be securities. The definition is the foundation of the Securities Act of 1933, sometimes called the "truth in securities law" and the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, which established the Securities and Exchange Commission and sets out filing requirements and trading regulation. Both were established in response to the events leading to the stock market collapse of 1929. Prior to these acts, anyone could sell stock to anyone and there were no reporting obligations or restrictions on insider trading or proxy solicitations. In other words, it was a lot like buying and selling game objects today.
We know a share of General Motors is a security.  General Motors must comply with certain reporting requirements to maintain its right to allow ownership interests to be exchanged in the public market.  While I may not be buying my game object with the expectation of profit - although many do - the price I am willing to pay is based on the information available to me at the time of payment.  Factors like scarcity, utility, restrictions and duration of use are all material in my decision and willingness to pay.  Most significantly, whether the game be in existence tomorrow.

Last month Zynga shut down 12 apps.   One of them Petville, still had one million monthly active users, and before at one point had 43 million.  The value of every object purchased evaporated, without warning, overnight.  How many people were still purchasing digital objects after Zynga knew the game was going to be shut down?   I am not pointing my finger only at Zynga, Star Wars Galaxies sold objects right up until the game was shut down.  Shutting down a game is simply a fact of life.  Not letting consumers know it will happen is not.

These issues are very exciting . . . .  for lawyers.  It is kind of like a full employment act because very hard issues mean a lot of work to resolve which means funding for childrens' college educations.  This is the second post in a row that I leave without an answer.  I throw it out there because I want to raise the issue and let people know we may be getting ahead of ourselves - again.