Mar 112009
 

Below are my introduction slides from ad:tech 2009 earlier this week. It is such a short time (each panel is given 50 minutes) to cover such a vast area and myself, Jeff (habbo.com.au) and Mitch (SmallWorlds.com) were all struggling to impart tons of great info/examples and have enough time to get interactive. I hogged the first 15 minutes by giving a broad overview and some examples I have been involved in that fitted the brief of the talk.

Below are my slides, a little descriptive text below that and at the bottom of this post some deeper insight into SmallWorlds (given most of my readers probably know Habbo already? – If not, Why Not!? ). I included one slide from Jeff Brookes set looking at Hitwise’s stats on browser worlds and other sites in terms of session length which will no doubt raise a few eyebrows!

Virtual Worlds & Business: What’s The ROI?

Virtual worlds are maturing at a rapid rate and brands are realising there are valuable business opportunities within them. Whether the objective is engagement, research or brand presence, virtual worlds are proving to be a legitimate marketing channel. In this session our panel will look to provide insights into the business benefits of working within a virtual world.

Presenters

  • Gary Hayes, Director, Laboratory for Advanced Media Production, AFTRS & CEO MUVEDesign (Australia’s leading SL developer!)
  • Jeff Brookes, Regional Director – Asia Pacific, Sulake Corporation (habbo.com.au)
  • Mitch Olson, Co-Founder, SmallWorlds.com

There were several important messages in my introduction. Firstly making sure we all understand the different platforms social virtual worlds are operating on so I briefly described

  1. Layered or Parallel worlds – cute 2D type avatars that move over the top of 2D web
  2. Browser Worlds – walled garden that run inside web browsers, often as isometric views as flash or shockwave
  3. Client Worlds – anything from 20MB to 3GB downloads of data and the world is obviously much richer than browser worlds but do need higher spec computers
  4. Console Worlds – a relatively new kid on the block, social spaces that exist on games consoles. All the rendering grunt is there and the avatars are often linked to the PS3, Wii or XBox360 real life account. PS3 Home is the easiest way to match to worlds like Habbo or There.com
  5. Note there are hybrids of the above and I would put ExitReality down as a hybrid of 1 and 3 as it turns a web page into a client style world

Here are the images of the above part of the presentation

worlds_platforms

I decided that a good ‘spine’ to hang the introduction on was the sort of negative questions floating around from those who don’t really understand what’s happening with web 3.0, the live virtual world space. This includes the paranoid printed press, a few out-of-touch businesses, and digital media companies/consultants more interested in iPhone/mobile games or Facebook widgets which is something they can truly explain (read: make money off).

Press hyperbole or myths?

  • Virtual Worlds are on the decline?
  • There’s no one in them?
  • & people don’t spend long there?
  • They are for kids or social ‘games’ not business?
  • There are no marketing models?

But I then addressed each question in turn showing real world stats and examples. Obviously in recession investment in new tech/services are going to be hit and recent reports do suggest a consolidation of investment into kids worlds, hinting at a lowering of VC in the ones I highlighted in my presentation, but this whole area is still something education & business are advised to R&D and understand fully – as a minimum. As we know it will be new ways of doing business, more immersive and efficient ways to collaborate and alternate forms of entertainment that will be partly what will bring us out of recession.

I finished the talk with a quick overview of the main models that virtual worlds (and most online games) can be monetized. Items 1, 3 and 4 were picked up in a talk on the 2nd day of ad:tech looking at how Nike engaged with console ingame campaign experts Massive across a few platforms.

  1. Static Advertising
  2. Promotions & Sponsored events
  3. Virtual Goods & Product Placement
  4. Dynamic InWorld Advertising
  5. Branded Spaces
  6. AdverWorlds & AdverGames

After my talk some great examples from Jeff Brookes from Habbo followed by Mitch from Smallworlds. I am always fascinated by the methods Habbo engages with its loyal and large community and was equally fascinated by Small worlds thinking too and how they are ‘integrating’ themselves with the existing 2D social networked web. This video by the infamous Robert Scoble features Mitch Olsen and Ted of SmallWorlds

They talk about the main traditional world features but then go onto the interesting areas of embeddable worlds (the Google Lively Killer app – not exploited), API integration with almost anything (twitter feeds, YouTube vids, FB updates on walls anyone) and the most interesting ‘missions’. You are encouraged to explore, meet folk, shop and basically get involved – Mitch says this is like the LinkedIn profile thinking, until your profile is 100% filled in you feel like you are missing out. I likened it much more like World of Warcraft, set players tasks, set them group tasks, give them rewards. This to me could be SmallWorlds real killer applet. At the moment they have around 400 000 users and that looks set to take off in the next months.

Tony Fendall blogged about a particularly cute feature that allows (his words) –

One important thing which was missed is that they didn’t have time to talk about all the cool micropayment features (which Ted alludes near the end) such as Gambit, OfferPal and Zong. Gambit and OfferPal are both services which allow users to earn SmallWorlds currency by completing tasks. These tasks include things such as answering surveys and give amounts of currency proportional to the amount of effort put in. This is a great way for players (who may not have a credit card) to still be able to earn a premium SmallWorlds experience. Zong is a simple cell phone payment service, where by users can pay for a premium SmallWorlds experience using their mobile phone. For an excellent look at how we have integrated Zong into SmallWorlds, check out this YouTube video created by the developers at Zong:

Note a cross post from Gary’s other main blog personalizemedia

Feb 102009
 

As I have mentioned on many of my blogs (especially Personalizemedia) virtual worlds (as 3D navigable spaces) will only really take off when there is an effective, easy to use, existing web browser implementation. We already have early entrants here such as Yoville, Vivaty, NewLively, Habbo etc: but these suffer as they are not particularly customisable or graphical true 3D. The other half way houses include Weblin, RocketOn covered in posts here. Exit Reality is another over integrated browser world, which does look much better than the above as it turns web pages into 3D space, but still not easy to use.

“Imagine a business Web site where you can see what visitors are looking at and go and talk to them. Imagine a classroom with educational content like a real 3D exploding volcano and students physically located all over the world. Imagine a family or staff spread around the globe meeting up in a virtual space and being able to see each other and share photos, video and documents. The scenarios are endless with virtual worlds and until now, have been little more than pipe dreams to the average Web user,” says Vincent Teubler, co-founder of Gogofrog.

gogofrog01I am aware of over 15 new worlds that are heading in the right direction and turning more immersive virtual worlds into social, business, educative and networking 3D windows inside browsers. One that has just press-released today is gogofrog (co-founder comes from Melbourne), with a tagline ‘Virtual Simplicity’. Its heart is in the right place and with 30 000 already using it might quickly become a dominant new player?

Gogofrog is breaking with convention to offer a new type of web experience. The basic idea is that you create your own 3D space (pad) that you can decorate the way you want and to reflect your personal style. In Gogofrog you can move from pad to pad discovering sites created by others and chat with people you meet along the way. You can also create your own place where you can invite your family and friends to visit and hang out.

It still has a few lessons for learn from the demise of Google Lively, but several area addressed already. Keen to know how it connects the ‘pads’ properly (vs non-linked rooms) and how easy the customisation (vs importing jpeg images) tools for the 3D elements are. The full press release gives a lot more information and shows how they are across the need for personalization and integrating existing social tools inside the environment (especially video conferencing etc) – this service and the others just about to peek out are definitely worth watching. Just before the release here is a slightly reversioned Gartner Cycle showing how browser worlds are going to have more significance over the next two years.

Gartner Hype Cycle SVW

Virtual Worlds as Advanced Social Networks, Business and Education Tools Possible with Commercial Launch of Gogofrog

Los Angeles, California (PRWEB) February 10, 2009 — The power of virtual worlds as a means of advanced social networks, sophisticated business tools and education tools is now accessible to all Web users with the commercial launch of Gogofrog. Two years after its Beta launch, Gogofrog has taken the advice and input of its global user base of more than 30,000 to remove the prime impediments to making virtual worlds a mainstream Internet tool, access. Fully browser-based, Gogofrog enables anyone with an Internet connection to set up their own world: simple worlds for free and complex worlds for as little as a $10US monthly subscription. No software at all for Users or Visitors to download.
News Image
“Imagine a business Web site where you can see what visitors are looking at and go and talk to them. Imagine a classroom with educational content like a real 3D exploding volcano and students physically located all over the world. Imagine a family or staff spread around the globe meeting up in a virtual space and being able to see each other and share photos, video and documents. The scenarios are endless with virtual worlds and until now, have been little more than pipe dreams to the average Web user,” says Vincent Teubler, co-founder of Gogofrog.

Teubler was an early convert to virtual worlds and envisaged the power of worlds beyond the traditional realms of fantasy game play. These worlds traditionally require users to download software and usually participate in a single often poorly regulated world. Whilst businesses, educators and users of social networks saw the potential, Teubler believes the need to download software, poor security and costs associated with participating and developing content or real estate have all contributed to severely limiting the broader use of virtual worlds.

“Due to their complexity virtual worlds have faced a mountain of problems in reaching beyond game players and the odd company with deep pockets,” Teubler says. “As a browser-based platform, Gogofrog users and visitors to the various worlds need only have access to the Internet to fully participate. Since its Beta launch, Gogofrog users have built simple 3D spaces to meet with friends, students and customers. They’ve set about decorating their spaces with photos, simple objects and their writings and have variously created places to meet, educate and do business in.”

Among other enhancements, the commercial launch of Gogofrog includes greater communications tools.

“Anonymous text chat lends itself to fantasy game play but not much else. Our users demanded real-world communication, so we enabled avatar-to-avatar controlled webcam communication. It doesn’t get any better than that. You can request and start a webcam chat with anyone in your virtual Web space — friend, family, colleague or visitor,” Teubler says.

Gogofrog also features a variety of user-defined security measures. The capacity to communicate via webcam is a big security bonus not found in other virtual worlds, as an avatar’s profile can easily be matched against them with a simple webcam chat. Gogofrog further allows users to set who they will allow in their world. With the click of a button, users can set it so only people they know — friends, family, students or staff — can enter their world, or they can set it so only those who know a password can enter. Teubler says the latter was especially important to educators who wanted to ensure their students would have a completely safe virtual experience.

Gogofrog also found participation is crucial to users, so the commercial site enables users to participate in the world’s economy.

“Many worlds already have buoyant economies as a result of allowing users to participate,” Teubler says. “Users need to be able to personalize and brand their worlds and potentially sell items to the broader Gogofrog user and visitor community. Gogofrog allows users to sell their images, scenes, avatars, avatar clothing and accessories and 3D furniture and objects. Everyone can make real money through their contributions.”

With user feedback continuing to be incorporated into Gogofrog’s software development roadmap, Teubler believes his prediction of virtual worlds becoming a highly sophisticated, commercial and entertaining part of social networks and the mainstream Internet is fast becoming a “virtual” reality. For more information about Gogofrog, visit www.gogofrog.com.

Contacts
Vincent Teubler Co-Founder Gogofrog
Melbourne, Australia
http://www.gogofrog.com
+61411265715

Monica Dodi
CEO Gogofrog
LA, California, USA

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

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