Business in Virtual Worlds, Second Life

Linden Lab Takes a Gamble On Payments

Linden Lab’s announcement of a partnership with Dragonfish for the provision of payment services had me thinking about this kid across the hall from my offices.

He used to get in the elevator with me now and then, and in our building you have to wait 20 minutes for the elevator to come, which gave him lots of opportunities to leer at every woman who walked by and then, when they didn’t respond to the glaring up-and-down gaze he’d revert to Blackberry mode and check his e-mail.

Which is number two on my “wow that drives me crazy” list. There should be a time limit on e-mail-to-office….if you’re within 10 minutes of your desk, just WAIT until you get there, the e-mails will be there, and it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll prevent the world’s collapse because you scanned your in-box as you were walking yards away from your desk.

Now – this kind of obsessive resentment for someone I didn’t even know bugs me. I mean, maybe he was a, um, surgeon-in-training or something and he was downloading lesson plans and checking out human anatomy, although more likely it was just me regretting the younger incarnation of himself who probably DID leer, if not at every woman who walked by then at the very least at every new book that came out, coveting a hard copy edition of Borges with drooling, panting hormonal energy, while not realizing how thankful I should be that the Blackberry hadn’t been invented yet.

So one day I asked him what he did in that office across the hall, which had a lot special steel doors and these security panels with special codes to punch in, and he said: “We make casino games for the Internet,” to which I replied “Oh” and he said “It’s good money” which explained the BMW with him being 19 or 20 or whatever, but probably left him in a state of continual and coder-eyed confusion as to why he still couldn’t safely get a date on a Saturday night.

He explained to me that they made the GAMES in Canada, which was amazing in itself, because in Canada the biggest gamble or game or whatever is the annual Tim Horton’s “Roll-Up-the-Rim-to-Win” contest, which has people tripling up on their cheap brown water coffee and secretly thrilling to that rrrrrrroll. So these online casino games are designed in Canada, but the transactions are processed in Gibraltar, he told me, and the whole thing is hosted elsewhere, but he wouldn’t say where, although once a month you would start running into these Russian guys in dark suits in the hallway talking on their cellphones or holding whispered conversations near the back stairs.

The Lab Goes European
Dragonfish has offices in London, Israel and Gibraltar and specializes in helping to “maximise (sic) lifetime customer value to your business: we do this through our unique Total Gaming Services offering, spanning Games & Technology, Marketing, Operations and ePayments.”

The press release with the Lab played up how big the opportunity is for Dragonfish, letting it break into ‘retail’ (whatever that is):

“We have many gaming partners interested in our e-Payment solutions but this is a giant step beyond our core operations into the retail environment.”

And for Linden Lab, it puts another marker in the sand in Europe where Catherine Linden is now heading up things in the Amsterdam office (which leaves the open question of the pod back in San Fran – because who is M sharing his 3-person pod with? I suppose Philip still comes now and then, but with seemingly several dozen Vice Presidents floating around does he have to choose?).

But the Dragonfish service set keeps a question open – which is whether their expertise in gaming and technology will be relevant. As they say on their Web site: “We enable your business to deliver any number of games, tailored to suit your chosen markets. From Casino and Quickplay to Poker and Bingo or Sportsbook, you can select the formats, platforms and brands to accelerate lifetime customer value.”

Which is just idle speculation, of course, although it reminds me of the fact that the former Chief Counsel at the Lab also joined the board of a casino company (or was it horse track, I can’t remember) a few months before his departure, which is getting very conspiratorial of me.

Globalized Payments
But at the end of the day, the Dragonfish deal is about reach. It’s about providing a wider range of payment options, and verification options, so that the Lab can continue its march to expand its user base outside of the U.S. As their site explains:

“Our payments platform is scalable and robust, maximising the availability of games for your players. It currently processes over 10,000 transactions per day across six currencies (GBP, EUR, USD, CAD, SEK, DKK) and a significant range of ePayments methods. It also supports 20 Languages, including all text and phone numbers.”

With a big emphasis on fraud prevention as well, what they’ve learned in the casino biz is pretty much bullet-proof compared to supporting an economy in virtual shoes.

“Dragonfish processes over $500M in deposits per year in a multitude of currencies and languages. From credit cards, e-wallets, prepaid cards, online banking and bank transfers to cash payments at physical locations, we make it easy, convenient and secure for your customers to play.

We work with many of the most trusted names in the industry, including VISA, Neteller and Moneybookers. As our partner, you also gain value from our leading fraud and risk management department. The experience and expertise of our team is invaluable in tackling and preventing fraud.”

Does this means we see a day in which we can buy Linden pre-paid cards at Best Buy? I’m, well, betting on it.


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