Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Virtual World evolving with a new angle

Read the news that China is developing one of the biggest government backed virtual world, known as China Recreation District. Despite the name, the project is attractive not because of the recreational aspects. The development is attractive due to the economical angle.

The Chinese government has partnered many private developers including China's own big names like HiPiHi, as well as others like Mindark. With China Mobile, and also 中国光大银行, the project basically gained a huge subscriber base easily with financial payment systems all planned out. The attraction extends to overseas markets, and other companies like IBM has also participated in the project.

The extension to overseas market takes the form of enhancing supply chain management. This means customers overseas could have a "virtual world" preview of the products, hooked up to the order systems of the company in the virtual world, and simply order online. While this concept already exists in other Virtual Worlds like Second Life's Dell project, the Beijing CRD offers an enhanced scale of many hundreds (if not thousands) of manufacturers from the "world's biggest workshop" directly. That's real cool in the economical sense.

Add the point that with IBM's presence, inter-operability would definitely be an initiative for this CRD project as well (I'm guessing). Thus other 'worlds' around the world could have the potential for avatar transfer to this CRD.

Most importantly for businesses, CRD's management has come out clearly to say that the Chinese government will take a hands-off approach when it comes to taxes:
Lai said the government would take a 'hands-off' approach to taxing companies or individuals that do business through the CRD, however.
How more attractive can it get? This stand is very different from the S. Korean stand of taxing virtual transactions. Wonder how the virtual currency in the CRD will be governed; can I take out the currency / cash out in another country? Who manages such exchange rates then? China's central bank?

The only possible hurdle is China's reputation (or lack of) for intellectual property protection. Well the CRD will go live by June 2008 / before Beijing Olympics 2008, so we will see soon about the success or failure of this project.

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