There are plenty of places for people to make free VoIP calls through their PCs these days, while the cost of phone-based VoIP service keeps falling towards zero. Given this, it’s a little surprising to see the companies behind some online video games and virtual worlds planning to start charging users to make in-game or in-world calls to other players and users. Apparently Second Life, Everquest and Star Wars Galaxies will soon feature paid calling plans, with the last two even letting “users talk with friends, no matter what Sony game they’re playing.” Wow, that’s a great feature — and one all those existing VoIP services already have, with the added benefit that they work when their friends aren’t playing Sony games, too.
So it’s hard to imagine the benefits of integrated VoIP calls will justify their use over any of the free solutions for very many users. This sounds somewhat similar to the sort of thinking that was being tossed out by eBay when it bought Skype, talking about all the “synergies” between voice calls and eBay sales, and how the calls would be a huge boon to the company’s bottom line. Those synergies, of course, never materialized for eBay. It seems likely they won’t materialize for game and virtual world companies, either.