Corporations that “Play” in Virtual Worlds, and how to keep up to date

There’s been a lot of hype over companies in 2006 “announcing” events and products via SecondLife’s Shinyness. Even an Agency Crayon was launched inside of SecondLife.

What’s a MMORPG?

If you’re not familiar with SecondLife it’s a downloadable application that let’s users interact in a virtual context, select clothes, build worlds, and explore. Some corporations are purchasing “Islands” which are fully contained experiences that in the physical world require the purchase of a server. Let’s take a glimpse at companies that are still practicing in Massive Multi Player Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG)

Top Brands build in SecondLife
Computer World reports these top brands still have a heavy presence in SecondLife: 1. IBM, 2. Pontiac, 3. Sun Microsystems Inc., 4. Dell Inc., 5. Reuters, 6. Cisco Systems Inc., 7. H&R Block, 8. Best Buy Geek Squad

The audience is there?
Not sure why Microsoft wasn’t on this list, they’ seem to be doing something interesting with this mysterious blimp (video). Even Amazon Webservices realizes that their developer audience loves to create and play, and even intentionally placed their island near IBM.

Risks
Although limited, there’s many risks associated with SecondLife, from subvert attacks, to ‘rape’ crimes that seem to hit the news in this new space. Aside from these human risks, to me, SecondLife has many barriers to entry: 1) Decent Bandwidth, 2) Downloadable application, 3) Knowledge and ability to use advanced user interface tools

Alternatives to SecondLife
SecondLife is NOT the only platform out there. Wells Fargo has been playing with ActiveWorlds for their StageCoach Island for some time (2005). WSJ reports Walls Fargo as being a fairly sophisticated Financial Institution that has embraced Social Media and the new toolsets. I’m sure future generations will connect and understand this more than any other demographic.

Other Worlds to explore
What’s next? If it were open to cross pollination, I’d start looking at World of Warcraft and other games, especially if one is focused at the IT market, what do you think your sys admin really do in those ‘meetings’? Apparently, as close as a corporation can get is to co-brand a Credit Card that provides gaming credits to play online. Imagine that, pay for play as Visa partners with Blizzard.

Additional Resources:

  • 3pointD provides running news and editorial over these virtual lands
  • Second Life Herald: SL news, from independent view
  • Reuters has setup an official Second Life Beat (via colleague Catherine at PodTech)
  • Active Worlds (alternative to Second Life) official homepage
  • I can’t wait to see the resumes of the future: Island Builder: 2 years active SecondLife development for marketing program support.