Jan 292009
 

I have talked a lot about Mixed Reality Entertainment on my media blog personalizemedia and how one of the most innovative uses of virtual space is to extend the TV or Film property into a 24/7, participatory environment.  The reason for doing this is to drive traffic to the TV or Film but also to keep existing followers loyal to the branded property. There is more detail about the reasoning on my posts on Big Brother in Second Life (Witnessing the Birth of an Entertainment Form) as well as posts nearby on CSI in Second Life and many of MTVs properties in There.com. There are moves around the world including BBC and many European broadcasters who are creating worlds alongside and in some cases in front of the TV episodics. So it is great to see this trend continuing as the current series of Heroes being extended into Habbo

The agreement was brokered by the William Morris Agency and marks the first time ‘Heroes’ has partnered with a virtual world.

..but not in the usual way. As reported by LA Times “‘Heroes’ hops on to Habbo’s virtual world” they will be introducing a virtual-only character Syn Anders who will act as a bridge or guide to the TV series. NBC themselves give more detail here.

While following directions from a mysterious virtual messenger, the new character will take the audience on an adventure as she discovers the history of ‘Heroes’ through a journey that travels back and forth between Habbo.com and the ‘Heroes’ Evolutions site.  “We’re excited to work with Habbo to introduce a new character that will extend the enormously popular and Emmy® Award winning ‘Heroes’ interactive story beyond the official Web site on NBC.com,” said Stephen Andrade, senior vice president, Digital Development and General Manager, NBC.com.  On Habbo.com, fans of the show will be able to interact with the new virtual hero through a variety of in-game activities. Habbos participating in a weeklong quest will discover their own special powers and will be recruited as new heroes. Those who successfully complete the mission will be awarded various virtual prizes.  On the ‘Heroes’ Evolutions site, the new virtual hero will be woven into several of the in-universe, interactive extensions of the on-air show, including a character profile, the Primatech Paper Assignment Tracker and new chapters of the ‘Heroes’ graphic novels.

This is a great use of virtual worlds and it also shows that you don’t need richly rendered environments to be able to engage with participants in these spaces. Also in terms of the ‘linking’ paradigm,  it is close to my level 3 wikipedia cross-media definition

Excerpt “Cross-media 3.0 – Bridges. – The truest form of cross-media where the story or service structure is specifically authored to drive the audience using strong Call-To-Actions, across media devices to continue the journey. The content placed on the other platform is critical to staying in touch with the experience and the narrative bridges tease you towards investigating or moving to another media form/platform. Obvious examples include a TV show that ends suddenly and gives you a URL to explore more. It may be an SMS that teases and points you towards a live concert in a city square which then leads you to a TV show, then to a podcast then to subscription emails. The trigger, or bridge, is the critical component of this in motivating the cross-media action.”

Of course I would encourage all TV producers to think about their current audience and whether they want to reach them this way. More importantly you need to think of the appropriateness of creating inworld characters or environments for them to exist in – serious games (from documentaries) and childrens episodics are hot ones at the moment . The real effort is more about having great characters that are persistant in the space but beware of bots or NPC’s (non player characters) pretending to be real, this can have a strong counter productive effect. More later.

Jan 272009
 

I was looking for one place on the web that had a list of the mix of male and females across the ‘game/virtual world’ space. I have actually found it useful to quote many of these stats to clients who still believe console games, online ‘quest’ based games and virtual worlds are still the domain of twenty something, slightly overweight, couch potato, anti-social males. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are lots of Australian centric insights (eg: SMH here “Never too old to play“) But these are more global or US based. Read on and in no particular order!

“Games Women Play” Sep 08  from the Edge

  • Online casual games bring in 150 million women every month– roughly half the population of the United States.
  • Nearly two-thirds of women casual players online are over 35.
  • Women play casual games 5 to 10 hours per day – significantly greater than the 7.4 hours per week by a survey by the Casual Gaming Association.
  • Competition, rather than simple relaxation or escapism, motivates them to play.
  • Female players who are 18 and older represent one third of the game-playing population while male players who are 17 or younger represent only 18 percent of casual gamers
  • Playing casual games is often the first thing women do after waking. They check their ranking and play for on average of 2 ½ hours every morning.
  • Women engage in trivia games with the family members but play action games alone.
  • Most women players are married or in a relationship and have children.

Online Gaming Popularity Grows Among Youngest and Oldest Female Segments in the U.S. ComScore report.

  • Significant user growth among teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 17 and women between the ages of 55 and 64.
  • Growth in the 12 – 17 age range was 55% compared to the total female online gaming audience rate of 27%
  • The over-55 age range grew 43%.

BBC 23 December 2008 “Battle of the Sexes”

  • It found that the most hard-core players are female, that gamers are healthier than average, and that game playing is an increasingly social activity.
  • Despite gaming being seen as a male activity, female players now make up about 40% of the gaming population.
  • The study (detailed link here from Wiley interscience) looked at gender differences in more than 2,400 gamers playing EverQuest II.

Industry Facts from Entertainment Software Association ESA

  • The average game player is 35 years old and has been playing games for 13 years.
  • The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 40 years old.
  • Forty percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (33 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent).
  • In 2008, 26 percent of Americans over the age of 50 played video games, an increase from nine percent in 1999
  • Sixty-three percent of parents believe games are a positive part of their children’s lives.

GameBoy by Gary Hayes

Women Embrace Casual Games from RedHerring “Casual Gamers Anything But”

  • Spend as much as 20 hours each week playing their favorite games.
  • More than 70 percent said they play at night, and 58 percent have no children living at home.
  • Results from the Harris research reveal that 67 percent of the women over 40 who play games do so at least four times per week. Nearly half play every day.
  • Some 60 percent say they would rather play a casual game than talk on the phone or do projects around the home, while nearly 50 percent said they would rather play a casual game than go to a movie.

PDF report by Pew Internet. “Adults and Video Games”

  • More than half – 53% – of all American adults play video games of some kind
  • Independent of all other factors, younger adults are still more likely to play games.
  • Among older adults 65+ who play video games, nearly a third play games everyday, a significantly larger percentage than all younger players, of whom about 20% play everyday.
  • Gaming consoles are the most popular for young adults: 75% of 18-29 year old gamers play on consoles, compared with 68% who use computers
  • Computers are the most popular among the total adult gaming population, with 73% of adult gamers using computers to play games, compared with 53% console users, 35% who using cell phones, and 25% using portable gaming devices.

BBC 17 Sep 2008 “Online gamers are not unhealthy

  • The “couch potato” image of computer gamers is unfounded, with many in better than average shape, claim US researchers.
  • More than 7,000 players of the online game EverQuest II were quizzed about their health by scientists.
  • They found gamers’ body mass index (BMI) tended to be lower than the US average – with many taking “proper” exercise more than once a week.

Driving Force in Video Gaming: Women and Baby Boomers. Reported on PC World Aug 2008.  IBISWorld claims that:

  • 38 percent of US gamers are women
  • The average player is 35 years old
  • 24 percent are over 50.
  • The percentage of female video gamers climbed from 33 to 38 percent in five years bolstered in part by Nintendo’s Wii, but also “interactive group games” such as Singstar, Rock Band, and Lips, as well as The Sims, The Movies, Nintendogs and NeoPets.

Demographics of the top 3 games on Facebook – from Bret on Social Games

  • Scramble which is the only game among the top three developers dominated by women(63%).
  • The age of Zynga players is spread more evenly among the three age segments, but with ~50% in the 22-25 age bracket.
  • Blake Commagere’s Monsters games also have ~50% of their users in the 22-25 age bracket.
  • They also have a fairly even male-female ratio.

Second Life demographics and usage – reported by Lost in Bananaverse

  • 83.79% of the population is 25 years and older, and the older users spend far more time in Second Life than younger users
  • Females spent nearly twice as long online in Second Life as males. Females make up 45.5% of the Second Life population.
  • Total user hours for April totaled 29,069,684 hours
  • Those 45 and older continuing to be the heaviest users on average.
    • 45 and older: 70.17 hours per user per month
    • 35-44: 66.06 hours per user per user per month
    • 25-34: 55.55 hours per user per user per month
    • 18-24: 37.84 hours per user per user per month
    • Teen grid: 24.67 hours per user per user per month

The demographics of World of Warcraft (useful but old 2005 data from Nick Yee)

  • The average age of the WoW player is 28.3
  • 84% of players are male
  • 16% are female. Female players are significantly older (32.5) than male players (28.0)
  • On average, they spend 22.7 hours per week playing WoW.
  • There are no gender differences in hours played per week.

ESSENTIAL FACTS ABOUT THE COMPUTER AND VIDEO GAME INDUSTRY 2008 SALES, DEMOGRAPHIC AND USAGE DATA (full report from ESA at Scribd)

  • 13 is the average number of years adult gamers have been playing computer or video games. Among most frequent gamers, adult males average 15 years for game playing, females for 12 years.
  • 59% of gamers play games with other gamers in person. This is a rise from 56% in 2007 and from 51% in 2006.
  • The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is: 40
  • 56% of online game players are male 44% are female.
  • What is the One Type of Online Game Played Most Often?
    • 12% Other
    • 47% Puzzle/Board/Game Show/Trivia/Card
    • 16% Action/Sports/ Strategy/Role-Play
    • 14% Downloadable Games Such as Bejeweled and Diner Dash
    • 11% Persistent Multi-Player Universe

Women are hardcore gamers from bNet in 2006

  • Electronic Arts’ casual game site Pogo.com draws 11 million unique users per month. Fifty-five percent of those are women.
  • On the subscription side, 75 percent of the more than 1 million subscribers are women over the age of 35.

Study: Women Gamers Outnumber Men in 25-34 Age Group – from GameDaily 2006

  • Consumer Electronics Association study found that 65 percent of women in the 25-34 age bracket play video games, while only 35 percent of men in that group said that they play video games. The key factor involved with these findings is the increasing popularity of casual games, especially among women. (These casual titles are typically found on web portals like Yahoo!, AOL Games, PopCap Games, EA’s Pogo.com and elsewhere.)
  • Women were found to be slightly less likely than men in the 25-34 bracket to play traditional console games on systems like PlayStation  or Xbox.

Old (2000) but interesting item on ‘gender bending’ in games from womengamers.com

  • 6% of subjects play female characters for 25% or less of their gaming time
  • 24% play females for 26-50% of their gaming time
  • 15% play females for 51-75% of their gaming time
  • 42% play females for 76-100% of their gaming time
  • 12% did not answer this question
Jan 212009
 

We are well into 2009 and there is a lot of news popping about the likely growth of social virtual worlds and their adoption. As a tangent game based virtual worlds are also still in relative growth as covered in SMH’s post Video games thrash movies and DVD, referring to the shift in Australia and reflected in the rest of the world, of more money spent on interactive vs passive entertainment ” video games industry is now double the size of the box office and more than 40 per cent larger than the movie disc industry in Australia”.

But back to social virtual worlds and I have quickly mapped some dates and SVW events (most are recent) onto a slightly modified Gartner ‘hype cycle’ curve. For the uninitiated here is a brief wikipedia definition.

Since 1995, Gartner has used hype cycles to characterize the over-enthusiasm or “hype” and subsequent disappointment that typically happens with the introduction of new technologies. Hype cycles also show how and when technologies move beyond the hype, offer practical benefits and become widely accepted.

Gartner Hype Cycle SVW

Of course in reality we have really been through a sine wave quite a few times since 1987 through 2005 but since the relative maturity of services like Second Life, There and others true and robust applications are emerging, beyond the traditional ‘gamer/entertainment’ use. MUVED created a post a few weeks ago showing widespread investment in a range of niche virtual worlds and this trend is seemingly continuuing apace. Raymond de Villiers, CEO of Wisdom Games is very bullish about the use of these worlds for business communication in a post entitled Growth of Virtual Environment Expected in 2009…

Continue reading »

Jan 192009
 

A presentation I gave last month at the Online Networking and Business Collaboration conference. This is one of twenty or so I did on a similar topic (engaging with virtual world inhabitants and game players) through 2008. The presentation broadly looks at 4 key areas

  1. The Actual Audience – who they are, what their demo and psychographics are
  2. The Market – dominant players, investment, in world currency and evident holes in the marketplace
  3. Some key case studies – what has worked, how things could be improved and
  4. A little bit about branded entertainment futures and how Virtual worlds will be more ‘merged’ with TV, film and the 2D social web.

virtual_world_shopping_hayesCase studies included Best Buy, McDonalds, Nivea (Splinter Cell), MTV There, STA Travel, Fosters, Accenture, ABC, Intel, Jeep, Dodge, Habbo, Big Brother, Kelly Services, Gossip Girl, L Word, Football Superstars, Webkinz, Barbie Girls, Stardolls, BBC, blast theory,virtual office, club penguin, vside, little big planet, weblin, rocketon, imvu, ps3 home, second life (various including The Pond)
There are more presentations under the LAMP & Project Factory umbrella across social media, new form entertainment and virtual worlds at Gary’s slideshare account.

Continue reading »

Jan 182009
 

An Australian project (initiated at a 2007 LAMP@AFTRS (Laboratory for Advanced Media Production) residential) called “Macbeth:What If” received further development/production funding from the NMC and the Australia Council. Project creator Kerreen Ely-Harper teamed up with producer Kate Richards and designer Angela Thomas to realise the original project, that built on the original project idea looking at the experiential teaching and awareness of Shakespeare’s works using Second Life. After a year or so of development they created an island in Second Life which also focuses on machinima creation in a rich virtual setting.

The video below is quick & cheerful, one-take, ‘Space Navigator’ Machinima and Music by Gary and the whole work was very similar in style and form to Thursday’s Fictions in Second Life, a MUVEDesigned project two years ago. Full credits for the Macbeth project below.

Continue reading »

Jan 162009
 

The Metaverse… the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of  Search Engine, Meta-mole. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly google where no search engine has gone before.

metamole

OK the folks at University of Teeside will probably not be calling to get me to write their taglines yet what they are doing with Meta-Mole is pretty adventurous and most importantly critical at the moment to glue the discontinuous metaverse. The Meta-Mole in simple terms from their press release is:

The Meta-Mole, created by the Centre for Design in the Digital Economy (D-LAB) based within the University’s Institute of Digital Innovation, will ultimately be a dedicated searchable online resource for the 350 plus virtual worlds currently existing on the Internet.
Continue reading »

Jan 152009
 

Senor Hontar: “We must work in the world. The world is thus.”
Father Altamirano: “No Senor Hontar…thus have we made the world. Thus have I made it”
Final lines of the film ‘The Mission’

As well as the increase in venture capital investment across all virtual worlds, the time spent in them, measured in user hours, is growing too. While this is partly due to existing users spending longer it is often the about the typical new user who after the initial log-in hurdles becomes highly engaged for 3-18 months or longer with a particular personally resonant virtual world service. Virtual worlds that offer something beyond mall-like activities (PS3Home springs to mind) or just a glorified chat channel (there are quite a few in this category) will obviously increase engagement. The personalization factor, to make the virtual space YourSpace either by customising other community members work or by creating it from scratch yourself, naturally increases your personal investment. Second Life has always been about Your World and one of the major driving factors is aspirational lifestyle and peer appraisal.

We partly escape, we are often out to impress, we love the control but most importantly we like to co-create and communicate with those we like on our terms and in areas we make.

Increase in User Engagement Second Life

Linden Lab who run Second Life have just published figures looking at 2008 and as in several presentations I have been giving around the world, it shows that SL and other worlds are far more ‘sticky’ than traditional 2D social networks such as Facebook and MySpace. From the Linden Lab (second life creators) Blog:

Second Life Residents logged nearly 400 million hours in 2008, growing 61% over 2007
Thursday, January 15th, 2009 at 12:33 PM by: Zee Linden

Continue reading »

Nov 122008
 

Gary Hayes Builds

Social Media and Web 2.0 is a lot about providing the tools and therefore the means for everyone to create content, that they believe others may want to see. I have personally created a lot of corporate, professional entertainment and music films over the years using high end equipment but now, like many millions around the world, find it a fun and satisfying process to be able to create films and stories in virtual worlds, aka machinima. (Quite a few are over on my personal virtual blog justvirtual)

There are literally millions of machinimas emanating from the likes of World of Warcraft, Sims, Movies, Halo, Second Life, Half Life and many more. Most are done for the love vs the money and some make it onto the big screen. For the creators it is about expressing ‘their’ world and experiences to each other but of course there is something else as important here.

Laurel Papworth talked recently about a machinima I did in Twinity and the ‘free advertising’ it offers for the brand or platform. For me it is also about creating an environment where simple tools encourage large numbers of people to come together remotely and do real-time, collaborative content creation for extended periods. It makes the world very, very sticky when they have shared creative goals and purpose – not just pre-constructed game play. Some may say game quests are social too and I believe when the players get ‘creative’ with the mechanic and ‘bend the rule’ together it certainly is.

Continue reading »

Nov 052008
 

…and a little end of 2008 Virtual Worlds, State of Play… it has been suggested several times recently that games & social virtual worlds especially will really suffer in this economic downturn and may not survive. Which leads to the point of this post to put things in a little perspective.

IS THERE REAL INVESTMENT?

First lets look at investor confidence in them. From Virtual Worlds Management Reports there was $1 billion US invested in 35 virtual world companies between Oct 06-07 – and since Oct 07 to the present day there has already been $918 million trusted to the success of this particular industry. This breaks down roughly as:

  • Q3 08 – $148.5 million invested in 12 VW companies
  • Q2 08 – $161 million in 16 VW companies
  • Q1 08 – $184 million in 23 VW companies
  • Q4 07 – $425 million in 15 VW companies

Continue reading »

Oct 122008
 

OK you may have spotted quite a few characters living on this post 🙂 Originally there were ‘video-real’ talking, salesy character centered on the page courtesy of CLIVEvideo but I still talk about them more below.

A few months ago I blogged over in personalizemedia about the new kid on the intranet block, those ‘layered’ social virtual worlds. Quite simply they are communities of pseudo 3D avatars layered over the 2D web (browsers). I noted that these services are a transition to a ‘live’ collaborative web 3.0 world as this is more of a “let them dip their toes in” before committing to a higher bandwidth, more fully rendered 3D world such as many of those on my sticky video of the 08 metaverse.

rocketon-q5 Continue reading »

Sep 082008
 

As part of a commercial report on the evolving range of social virtual worlds I recently ventured into fifty plus worlds to sample the creative, business and educational potential. My video is an indicative capture of each world/environment as a seven minute video for 2008 posterity. It demonstrates how ubiquitous, popular and streamlined many of these spaces are becoming across the intraweb / ‘cloud’. With over 300 million frequenting or registering for the non-game based worlds over $900 million of new investment last year in 2nd and 3rd generation services there seems to be no stopping them.

75MB MP4 Download available at http://www.justvirtual.com/SVWS_2008.mp4

A few immediate things that struck me on my travels:

Continue reading »

Jul 192008
 

My slides below from my presentation at one of Australia’s industries leading advertising conferences yesterday which I had previously blogged about “The Advertising and Marketing Summit” It was a jam packed room with around 400 attendees of marketing movers and shakers. I closed the second day with the talk on ‘engaging in virtual communities’ followed by a great talk on Word of Mouth Marketing from Piers Hogarth-Scott, CEO, Yooster & Trustee.

The general tone of the two days seemed to be the usual big broadcast ‘dry-up’, mobile is not quite here and the ramp up of ‘online’ marketing. Sadly online, as a platform, which to me is a multi-faceted beast (basically it is everything that has been before and much more) is still seen by this particular segment of the industry as only about search and web 1.0 push.

virtual_world_shopping_hayes

SilkCharm at least raised some questions at the end about making sure companies seriously consider Social Media Marketing at executive level and my key points at the end were get in there, spend time and really understand the culture in the vast range of virtual worlds before making a decision to do any R&D or full blown campaigns.

Jul 082008
 

A video insight into the build process of the new Deakin Arts Education Centre Island built and designed by MUVEDesign’s Gary Hayes completed early 2008.

Jenny Grenfell, Arts Lecturer at Deakin said:

“This Deakin University Arts Education community in Second Life aims to stir the imagination. It is a world we create and create within. It is at once a work of art and a place to inspire, make, share and present art. Our presence in SL is both for performance and is in itself a performance.

Our Second Life existence is an extension of our involvement in the real world where we are passionately immersed in the practices of teaching and learning in our art forms of visual art, drama, music, dance, and media.”

Medium rez 105MB MP4 available here. Music composed and performed by Gary Hayes. These images with comments can be seen here.

Video, music & 447 Images © Gary Hayes and Deakin University

Below is the flickr slideshow embedded as an alternative

Mar 082008
 

Thursday’s Fictions built in collaboration with Physical TV has received much critical acclaim since its launch in mid 2007 here is a sample first 20 of voluntary comments delivered in-world. If you have Secondlife installed on your machine click this SLURL to go there now

One of the Five Must-See Sites in Second Life. Bettina Tizzy, NPIRL featured in New World Notes

Deakin

  1. MaYa Miquel – This must be the best sim I’ve ever seen in secondlife. And I’m playing for a while already. I totally love it. thank you!
  2. Dizzy Sparrow – This is a very interesting place and would very much like for there to be more… are you going to be building things for the other days? Please say you are! 🙂
  3. bebop Kohime – the most amzing place ive ever see in secondlife cant wait unyil the other tunnels are finished, thank you
  4. Vedas Enoch – This is by far the most interactive and fun thing I’ve done on SL. Great job!
  5. Trigit Amat – Congratulations! This is one of the most interesting and nicely done places i ve seen in sl! Keep up the great work, i ll come and see the progress regularly! Thank You from Trigit Amat (Trigital Vox)
  6. Lor Gynoid – Cleverly done. I applaud the imagination that went into Thursday’s Fictons.
  7. Kali Idziak – This sim is absolutely brilliant. Thank you for your efforts.
  8. Sinclair Bracken – I thought it was fantastic. I hope you’ll keep it here, and even add to it. I love the poetry, and the sense of mystery. Really wonderful. I may not have gone all the way, and it seems as if there’s more to experience, and one is left with questions, but it’s really great.
  9. Anni Aluveaux – Thanks for the experience, it was exciting.
  10. Jenene Lemaire – amazing build so far, please finish this, one of the best I have seen so far. I want to see this movie now as well. Never heard of it before visiting this sim. Really pleased to have found this.
  11. Kronos Kirkorian – Gary, Just came back to wander through this exhibit again. You’ve done a remarkable job here. Thoughtful, clever, insightful and compelling. You have become very skilled in the use of SL on many different levels. I hope you are proud of the effort, I have not seen anything in SL that comes up to the level of what you have accomplished here. Regards, Kronos Continue reading »
Jan 032008
 

.
Virtual Worlds Necessitate Corporations Develop Personality followed by Gary’s top 15 tips to becoming human in the metaverse (and 2D socio-nets).

I have been doing a lot of work moving brands, properties and companies into Second Life recently and in the process I am often forcibly reminded of the divide that naturally exists, in these new worlds, between ‘the corporation’ on one hand and ‘the individual/community’ on the other. The 3D Virtual World is being used in many ways by the natives (aka the public, a bad definition I know), living out their fantasies in a very chaotic but social way. In strong contrast to that we have companies who are naturally bland, characterless, faceless and in the worse cases anti-social.

American Apparel

It is not all bad as we are seeing something very positive emerging and being played out as both sides manouver and become better aligned. We are also seeing the next phase as the early mistakes pull out and leave the new entrants to learn from those errors. So I have collected some of my thoughts below on how companies need to approach the development of their personality.

Continue reading »