Top Five Virtual World Business News Items

Coke in SLTaxes, trademarks, advertising, malware, and more taxes. For every story I report on for GigaOM, there’s a bunch I save, to see how they develop. Here’s a handful of online world/MMO news items I’ll be keeping an eye on for future stories in the realm of metaverse business:

South Korea to tax virtual world wealth: Starting in July, if you earn more than 6 million won (about USD$6500) from the buying and selling of gold coins and other MMO valuables, you’ll have to pay a value added tax. Make more than $13,000 from that trade, and you’ll have to get a business license. (Hat tip: Raph Koster.)

Coke frees up its trademark in Second Life? According to Reuters’ Second Life correspondent, the most recognized corporate brand in the world is letting SL users “hack” their logo into virtual products, as long as the Coke-infused items don’t contain anything overtly sexual or violent. SL blogger Csven Concord has a very interesting interview with a Coke executive involved in this project. (Disclosure: the Coke presence was co-developed by an advertiser on my SL blog.)

Virtual world advertising forecast to reach $150 million by 2012: That according to Parks Associates, and that’s just the money spent in currently existing worlds. In related news, another analyst expects overall advertising in games to reach $2 billion by 2011.

Hackers more interested in stealing World of Warcraft gold than real cash: Phish for someone’s bank account information? That’s so old school– plus, that’ll get you put in jail. McAffee reports that there is now more malware created to steal WoW account gold, than financial passwords. Logic being, if the cyber thieves get caught trying to hack WoW, the penalties are a lot less steep– plus, they can always sell the gold for cash on the gray market.

Uncle Sam sets virtual world tax policy next month: Speaking of taxes, the US Congress will issue its first report on the issue in August. No one knows what it’ll say, but if they make an income through real money trading or content creation in Second Life, Americans might want to start collecting receipts now.