Thursday, May 31, 2007

Virtual China

Entropia Universe scored a big win yesterday, announcing that it had been selected by China to build a cash-based virtual world for that nation, according to an AFP story. The agreement with China's Cyber Recreation Development Corp. (CRD) apparently took a year to negotiate.

Here are some of the newsworthy facts to emerge so far:

  • CRD estimates that this new virtual world (or worlds) will create 10,000 real-world jobs in China.
  • Up to 7 million people will be able to access the virtual world simultaneously. (This compares to a typical level of around 40,000 concurrent users today in Second Life.)
  • The goal is to sign up 150 million residents globally.
  • The virtual economy will generate $1 billion in commerce annually.
  • One goal is reduce pollution levels by allowing increased telecommuting in the virtual world.
  • The go-live date is September 2008.

This is definitely one development to follow. I suspect that China is doing this in part to better monitor and control what happens in virtual worlds.

Also, I am skeptical about whether a government entity like the CRD can compete with privately-run virtual worlds in terms of adopting the latest technologies and responding to user demands. Virtual worlds are already moving so fast that it's difficult for bureaucracies to keep up.

UPDATE: A story on notes that "virtual police will exist in the Chinese game, and that it won't allow players to protest the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, which killed hundreds of people."