I’m doing research around how different ages using social networks, communities, and virtual worlds by age, and will compile this list as it grows. I’m looking for established community sites that are mature enough to work with brands.
Above: Screenshots from Club Penguin (2006) to purchase virtual pets. Many children would ask their parents to spend their real world allowance in virtual Club Penguin to decorate their igloo. There’s real money to be made too, as Disney purchase Club Penguin for $700,000,000 just a few months ago.
Last week, In Hong Kong, I gave a presentation about Virtual worlds and social media to some of Asia’s top investors. A few folks had a hard time understanding the concept of virtual goods, after speaking with Susan Wu, there are a handful of virtual goods that can be sold. She told me that there are three categories of Virtual Goods:
The Three Categories of Virtual Goods (from Susan Wu)
1 Behavioral goods (such as gifting)
2 Decorative goods (like self-expression)
3 Functional goods, (like wielding a swords that grants super powers)
These goods mean a great deal to the players that inhabit these worlds, and in many respects almost all social systems have goods (bloggers have technrorati, podcasters have downloads).
[Virtual Goods, although intangible, have been assigned personal and social value that members of a virtual world will hold it's worth ]
For many, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would buy these things, but she also stated that such gifts were already being exchanged in Facebook, from hugs, food fights, gifts, and in a way, even the dreaded poke.
[Virtual goods, and luxury items in real life are very similiar; we've placed personal and social value on them, often without any additional physical utility]
In fact, there are entire industries in China that collect gold from World of Warcraft and other games, they then sell this virtual gold on the free market for US dollars. I had dinner with one of the CEOs over a year ago in San Jose.
I gave the analogy that until humans cease in giving luxury goods like Fashion Designer purses or high end watches, then virtual goods will continue on. How does that analogy work? Humans have placed personal and social value on high end gifts (like a diamond ring) that doesn’t serve a higher utilitarian purpose of a cheaper counterpart, then we’ve assigned a ‘virtual’ value to these luxury items. In it’s essence, a handbag from Gucci or Payless will serve the same purpose. Sure, some of the materials may be more rare, or cost more to produce, but that doesn’t equal to higher utility.
(Left: I created a virtual Jowyang, complete with spiky black hair)
Habbo is a web based play world, a better description than a virtual game, a cross-combination of Cyworld, and a neopet, much in the spirit of Club Penguin, which I was experimenting with in 2006. The graphics are simple 2-D bite based graphics, it’s a cute design.
I dipped into Habbo world after reading James Wagner Au’s excellent coverage of this new virtual experience, Weekend Feature: The How of Habbo Hotel, see other conversations. I created a new character, started a very spartan room (but have not earned enough coins to add furniture) and saw groups, games and met others. The room I created? The web strategy room of course.
I found the country segmentation interesting, this will help to create separate communities around cultures, there’s certainly a nationalistic spirit as members can purchase national flags to sport and wave.
What’s fascinating is he Habbo coins, which are a virtual currency, which can help buy and sell virtual items that don’t exist in real life. Since members can continue to create their own spaces, and perhaps goods, it’s a self-perpetuating economy. It appears this world is aimed at 8-18 year olds, on a global basis, there’s advertising opportunities. I’ll try to get my hands on some demographic and media information, that would help me to better understand the opportunity. Other interesting events include a film award, which is awarding members who create their own films within Habbo world.
My take? While there are many virtual worlds appearing, (see this growing list) it’s still too early to tell who will be a dominant winner, it’s an emerging industry, I predict that these worlds will start to segment by culture and demographic, and the savvy worlds will grow as their demographic ages. I took some screenshots, to save you from registering, creating a character, and learning the navigation. As I get more information, I’ll post details.
KELOWNA, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA and BURBANK, Calif. – Aug 1, 2007 – As a part of its strategy for long-term growth through applying new technologies to the creation and global distribution of high-quality family entertainment, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has acquired Club Penguin, one of the fastest-growing online virtual worlds for kids. The addition of Club Penguin to Disney’s existing online assets will further strengthen the company’s objective of establishing clear leadership in online virtual worlds for kids and families.
Can you smell bubble? That amount of money is just ridiculous. What’s so compelling about it? Kids are using their allowance money to buy virtual goods in the game.
Intel, who’s a client for video and audio podcasts, took me on a tour of their newest addition to their Second Life island. This was a true brand experience, that infused the Intel message with a quest to find three parts; A jet pack, and two Intel chips to power it. Why jetpacks? They represent speed, agility, and flexibility. Those who complete the quest can use this jetpack to fly higher than most and fly quickly through Second Life , for geeks like me, it’s bragging rights for the second world and first.
This “Journey to the heart of Intel Island” was unlike other simulations, it was multi-dimensional. There are elevators that let users move down several layers underground, as well as above a strategically placed tower. You’ll find cross branding events with Orange County Choppers, and a virtual music concert. At one concert hall you can watch videos of the multiply yourself campaign, but this time it features Second Life avatars, great cross-over.
The experience is rich as flying laptops are pets, they provide additional on-brand messages and quest tips.
There are multiple venues to explore in the simulation, from an underground life size chip, to a conference area, to a concert area, this is a multi-purpose environment. What’s most interesting is that Second Life citizens will have to ask a jetpack owner where they got the jetpack, it’s a brilliant word-of-mouth campaign. But don’t ask me for tips, you gotta give it your own try, for some it will take some time to find the pieces, (maybe even 30 minutes) but it’s emotionally satisfying when you earn it.
Thanks Intel, and MRM Worldwide/McCann Erickson (Updated July 25th: I forgot to include some of the folks who helped out on this) who was the agency who developed the Island along with developers Millions of Us. Ogilvy, the PR agency and Intel invited me for the sneak preview when the doors opened at 9am today. This was a unique interactive brand quest that left me feeling that by getting the chips would empower the virtual experience better, it make sense.
I was asked for my feedback, and I said it would be interesting if the simulation would create a floating island high above that’s only accessible by the jet pack. Heck, take me to the moon or a new planet!
If you’re a corporation in SecondLife, I’d love to hear about it, let me know, my email address is on the top right.
The Private Tour starts
Tie ins with Orange County Choppers
Just got my jetpack, but it’s unpowered
Getting on elevator
Second Life avatars dance to “mutliply yourself”, very clever cross-branding
Deep inside the Island, this is one of the first simulations to be multi-level
Concert Hall and Auditorium
Yes, I got the final chip, and my jetpack is powered (notice full green bars on pack)
I’ve seen a few corporate Second Life islands, this one is well thought out and is a good example of opt-in brand immersion, for corporations that want to enter this space, take note, this is a good case study.