I'm still convinced that the journalists of the New York Times have a competition going on into how many different sections of their newspaper they can fit news about virtual worlds. After sports, arts, and travel, their latest virtual world article, about Second Life, is in the Home & Garden part of the style section. Because, you see, in Second Life you can have a virtual home, including garden.
Another article in the NYT is in the business section, about the BarbieGirls.com (I tend to call it Barbie Online) virtual world. Which in fact isn't so much different from Second Life, spouting 4 million registered users, while forgetting to mention that these users didn't pay anything, and nobody knows how long they are staying, and whether they ever come back. But Mattel, wise in the ways on how to extract money out of the parents of Barbie-loving girls, has a plan. They are selling them the "Barbie Girl Device" for $60. That is basically a USB stick / MP3 player, but it comes with data on it that unlock content in the BarbieGirls.com virtual world. So you are buying both something real (a doll-shaped MP3 player) and a bunch of virtual items with one purchase.
I couldn't help thinking of the scene in the South Park episode "Make Love not Warcraft", in which the Sword of a Thousand Truths is revealed to reside on a USB stick. I wonder when the first items for MMORPGs will be sold by the game companies on USB sticks in toy shops. Or maybe just game time. In any case, selling such stuff on USB sticks nicely gets around the problem of how the kid can persuade his grandmother to buy him something virtual.